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THE VETERAN

Page 16
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<< 15. The History of VVAW National Newspapers17. Life in the VVAW National Office >>

Memories of Operation RAW

By Joseph Bangert

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Operation RAW (Operation Rapid American Withdrawal) was the first mention of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) in my native Philadelphia Inquirer in August 1970! Winston Warfield, a US Army Vietnam Vet, ironically, stationed in Quang Tri at the same time as me, a helicopter Marine met up, believe it or not, at a "Veterans for Peace in Vietnam" meeting. Old guys in Philly, but they were all like WWI and WWII veterans who lacked energy and Winston and I headed out to a bar—we made fast friends and exchanged numbers and a few beers.

I remember cracking him up with an old exclamation that both Marines and Army used to scream to their homies when in other provinces in central Vietnam "Quang Tri is ALLRIGHT" and off I trudged for about six months after my 'honorable discharge' from the Suck. (nickname by Jarheads for Uncle Sam's Misguided Children!)

I hitchhiked to Morristown, New Jersey and was immediately warmly welcomed by an odd lot of my fellow Vietnam Veterans. Joe Urgo, Christopher Soares, whacked out Bob McClaine (my first PTSD nutcase), Scott Moore on the horn, his beautiful girlfriend Kris, and then I met Al Hubbard, clearly either our Sergeant Major or confidante. Ah these memories, ah the fact that this was a Joint Force Action. It was like a real homecoming, a field reunion "in the field" of New Jersey of sorts, where I met who I just had experienced.

Totally Operation RAW was our first "limited incursion" into the heart of the Northeast corridor. Retracing earlier steps of a ragtag army. We assembled and planned our "Harch Forward." There were loads of wimmen—nurses and a few vets in the closet still....we were an army of about 100 starting but boy did we have fun along the Hue.

There were the Brooklyn Heights boys Danny Schecter and Ed Damato. It's coming back to me. Oh yes, there's a mystery about the film/docu Only The Beginning.

I got to interview my compadre Bob McClaine, who had sore feet and we were being treated by the surgical volunteers, who, I believe had a fucking ambulance. All squad leaders had walkie talkies and we sauntered forward in delightful still summery weather.

In OTB (Only The Beginning) there's a Woodstock scene of skinny dipping when we were young, hairy uninhibited and a little stoned too.

Operation RAW was the first time that I was "out" as a Marine combat (airdale for shore) Vietnam Veteran. Surrounded by one-footed or no-footed fellow 'Nam vets moving out, each day, into the unknown with a twinkle in our eyes and Ayes...Forward March.

Remember, I hail from the East Germantown section of North Philadelphia and so as a lad I was steeped in exactly where Continental Army heroes fell during the defeat at the Battle of Germantown. Elfred's Alley, the First Catholic Church, Saint Joseph's, down the street from both Carpenter Hall (Masonic trade union) and Independence Hall where the plum went down on the papier de Victoire!

Not to mention the bogus "Betsy Ross" House.

Day two, we encountered our first flag wavin "fuck you, ya hippie faggots" VFW/AL confrontations. Oh boy. And we were performing "guerrilla theatre" along the Hue with volunteer Quaker girls/wimmen from Philly and very young high school kids, all Quakers, who came along with their brave leader Bridge McKay from NARMIC.

Anywho, "I was there" and we finally trekked all the way to Valley Forge, and I am proudest of the fact that I was only a small part of a squad sent over to the Valley Forge Army Hospital to invite recently amputated brothers to join us and they did in numbers, and that well and the icing on the cake. It was great to see and greet and touch and meet Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, and wait for it, glory hunting John Forbes Kerry! Chua chet!


Joseph Bangert is a long-time member of VVAW.


VVAW's Operation RAW, September, 1970.

VVAW's Operation RAW, September, 1970.

VVAW's Operation RAW, September, 1970.

<< 15. The History of VVAW National Newspapers17. Life in the VVAW National Office >>



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