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Recollections of 1971
By VVAW members
The following recollections were posted on the VVAW website. To leave your memories, go to www.vvaw.org/1971guestbook/
I was in basic training at Fort Lewis when VVAW held Dewey Canyon III in Washington, DC in the Spring of 1971. The intense drama of Vietnam vets throwing their medals over the fence onto the Capitol was reflected in the demeanor of the new recruits. You could see it in their eyes and hear it in their nervous conversations about what was happening 3,000 miles away. A few made crude disparaging remarks about it. Most were sober and struggling to understand it. Many of those recruits later wound up in Vietnam. I often wonder how the VVAW demonstrations impacted them when they arrived in Vietnam.
Patrick Francis McCann
1971, December 4th to be exact, was when this active-duty GI (USAF) began his 50-year journey as a freedom fighter. I attended the 2nd anniversary of Fred Hampton's murder by the Chicago police and the FBI. Left the Southside Chicago church that night no longer "their" soldier. Been a member of VVAW since 1973.
I was 18 that year.
This was the first draft year that Selective Service abolished the College Deferment.
I was totally against the War.
I applied for Conscientious Objector Status from my local draft board.
I was denied. I appealed. I was denied again
I enlisted in the Navy in 1972.
1971 and I was still on the Westchester County LST 1167 off the coast near the Mekong. We just floated back and forth supplying attack helicopters and PBRs. My frustration at our mindless assignments was numbed by visits to Hong Kong, Singapore, Subic, and Yokosuka and being 500 days short and counting.
1971 meant I was back in the world for a whole year that July 20th. Being lucky and drawing an 11B MOS gave me the opportunities to see the war up front and personal. Fortunately I had more good times than bad in the Northern I Corps. I did go to a VVAW meeting in my town but at that time I couldn't connect. Some years later I finally decided that I owed it to myself and joined again, this time as a Life Member. I tend to be more a supporter than a doer, but that's my problem, nobody else's. I have learned that I trust nothing related to the US Military. Never did and never will. The USG is only concerned with making the military bigger and bigger. Now we even have a "Space Patrol" WTF?
I came home from Nam on Veterans Day '69, but I still had more than 6 months left to serve, so they wouldn't discharge me. I was stationed in California when the "big" actions happened, but I could buy Playboy at the PX. I kept the flag-draped casket inside my locker, and I still have it on my wall. I was a late comer, but I thank all of you who led the way.
Joseph T. Miller
Chicago, April, 1971. Since I was not able to attend any VVAW events away from home, my wife Linda and our daughter Lisa joined me in the April 24, 1971, march in Chicago. Lisa was only five, so we had her in a stroller. As we marched, the chants bounced off the buildings on State Street. "One, two, three, four, we don't want your fucking war!" was among the most popular. The next day, we were at my folks' place for Sunday dinner. Five-year-old Lisa, dressed in her Sunday finest, began marching around the living room shouting "One, two, three, four, we don't want your fucking war!" My wife laughed, my parents were shocked, and I caught hell that day. I was so proud of my daughter, though. I still am.
I spent two years in Thailand loading weapons on F4 jet fighters 1968-1970. While still serving back in the states I saw an ad for VVAW in Playboy. When I was discharged I investigated VVAW locally and there was no official Pittsburgh Chapter. I did become aquatinted with a vet who had been to Dewey Canyon and together we started up the Pittsburgh Chapter. I'm mentioned in the attached VVAW article.
With help from the Hawaii People's Coalition For Peace and Justice, we planned an anti-war demonstration. On a Sunday in May 1971, 70 short haired young men, soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen dressed in Hippie garb demonstrated against the Vietnam War and Militarism at the front gates of Schoffield Barracks Army Base.
US Army veteran I returned from RVN 8/70 I had been overseas for 18 months and wasn't 20 years old yet. I was with the 5th Mech in N I corps. The guys who participated with me during Dewey Canyon III have passed. We spent I don't know how many days there. It was amazing!
To those who didn't run.
From those who didn't forget!
In July, 1970 I was discharged from the USAF to attend school at the University of Wisconsin-GB. There I met fellow vet Bill Van Oss and together we started the UW-GB chapter of VVAW signing up many vets and marching in Madison.
February 1971: with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Danang.
April 1971: with the VVAW in DC for Dewey Canyon III.
Made my head spin.
Immediately after Dewey Canyon III, I wrote an article for the Pittsburgh Fair Witness newspaper detailing the events. It was written as a letter to someone who was still in Viet nam. I couldn't find a copy of it but no matter. There are many other, more complete sources. See, for example, Gerald Nicosia's Home to War where he devotes 60 pages to DC III, plus all the info here on vvaw.org. Rather I will just relate a couple memories.
Memory 1: I'm sure many there remember the concerted effort to work with the DC Park Police to get enough trash cans etc. so we could keep our section of the Mall clean - a task we knew well.
Memory 2: I think the following occurred on Wednesday night, but I could be wrong. The CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite devoted a good portion of that evening's program to interviews with folks at DC III. Also there were a number of "government provocateurs" that were hanging around. With their relative clean looks and new-looking jeans they stood out like sore thumbs. It appeared that they were trying to provoke a violent response from us. We basically ignored them but they were becoming a pain so one of the organizers got on the microphone and asked us all to go to our own areas (we were divided into state or city or other groups where we had set up our sleeping bags and gear), sit down, and don't let anyone into our area that we didn't know. That left two or three(?) dozen of these provocateurs walking around...with nothing to do. They left. Sorry Tricky Dick, it didn't work.