Out of the Canadian Blue
By Edward M. Chilton
LETTERS TO VVAW:
Out of the Canadian Blue
Dear Dr. Miller and VVAW:
Greetings out of the blue from a 53 year old stranger living in Toronto. I learned of you today by something which I encountered on the Internet. It is an electronic reproduction of the column you wrote for the Daily Illini back in August 1994. Your title for the piece has gone missing but the topic concerns the importance of the "Gulf of Tonkin Incidents" in your life, and their overlooked importance in American history. ["Remembering the Tonkin Gulf and After," originally published in THE VETERAN in 1989. --ed.]
Basically, thank you. Thank you for shoving the nose of American history into the yellow puddle of Tonkin and swatting it noisily but gently with a rolled up newspaper. I'd like to share a few things, if you don't mind: firstly, my own circumstances and decision.
The years of my life, 1961-1967, were spent as an undergrad up at Elmhurst College and grad at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. A dear friend of mine from Palatine, Illinois was killed during the Christmas 1965 "bombing halt-peace offensive." He was a Warrant Officer helicopter pilot. His death was a shock to me. I credit returned vets at NIU in 1966-7 for having the courage to denounce the war and bring my attention to the antiwar literature. I also followed closely the pathetic court-martial of Lt. Howard Levy, M.D. I knew I could not take Vietnamese life for this terrible political mistake but hoped against hope I would not have to face a "decision." My order to report for induction came in the wake of Tet and the awful assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I felt my country then was the equivalent of "rabid" - it had gone berserk - and I was not about to let it put me in jail for opposition to its mistaken politics, as it did Dr. Howard Levy. On 12 May 1968, I entered Canada, and there at the bridge I applied for landed immigrant status. I had a job offer in clinical psychology at a 550-bed rehabilitation center and I began treating victims of severe psychological and emotional trauma. So have I spent much of my life.
While my actions infuriated several of my family members, one who supported me ethically was Arthur Bounds Chilton. He was a graduate of Annapolis circa WWII and became a nuclear engineer during his naval career. After retiring he taught at the University of Illinois, and if I understand correctly, he founded the journal Ploughshares at your institution. Do you know of him?
Returning to the Tonkin Resolution, you note that two congressmen did not support the resolution in the Senate. Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon was a flamboyant character of whom you may know something. But you may never have had occasion to learn anything about the other person who voted no, senator Ernest Gruening of Alaska. I have done so, and believe me, it is worth the time! In your library should be a copy of Many Battles, which is the memoirs of Dr. Gruening. He was a spectacular person with a spectacular mind and I find it sad that his interesting life is so soon forgotten.
I have an unusual point of view about American political science and a related unusual point of view about the root causes of the Vietnam War, but I do not wish to impose those upon you in an introductory letter. Thanks again for allowing your 1994 article onto the Internet.
Edward M. Chilton