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Page 16
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<< 15. Memories of the Winter Soldier Investigation17. Dewey Canyon III: A Limited Incursion into the Country of Congress >>

50 Years Ago

By John Lindquist

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As I sit at the kitchen table and think back 50 years to the time period of April-December 1971, I'm flooded with memories and pride. Dewey Canyon III (DC III), April 19-23, 1971, Operation Heart of America, Kansas City, MO July 4th weekend and Operation Peace on Earth, Christmas Time 1971, flood my brain, or what is left of it.

In April 1971, I was released from jail in LA and could not wait to leave for Milwaukee. Ann Bailey and I rode back with another couple to Milwaukee and, luck for us, to a VVAW fundraiser at UWM. The Milwaukee Chapter was leaving the next day for DC, in a convoy of three or four cars. Buzz Noyes (RIP) and I had not seen one another since July 1970.

We were in the same company in Vietnam in the USMC. It was a great reunion. I will not rehash all the events, but will recall some memories.

The car convoy was long and luckily uneventful. On our first action, a march from Potomac Park to Arlington Cemetery, we had such high hopes. But the authorities locked us out. "Let's march to the Capitol Building", and we did. The distance now blows my mind. I remember being shunned as we marched past the headquarters of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

VVAW and Gold Star Mothers at Arlington National Cemetary, April 1971.

What I marvel at was our principle of Non-Violence. We were not trained this way. But tactically we knew it was our best weapon. As I looked at the scene in our capital, in January 2021, from the Trump mob, I knew we did the right thing.

How did we eat at DC III? We were fed by a hippy collective. It was good and it had a lot of rice. I respect people who cook for big groups. Beginning in 1971, I started to cook for VVAW with lots of help.

Women at the demo were few and far between. I remember Ann Bailey, Annie Luginbill, Ann Hirshman, and John Kerry's wife. A large group of Gold Star Mothers honored us with their presence. Also included were some hippy ladies in the food collective.

On day one, I ran into Bill Hatton, who was in the Minnesota chapter; the "Home Front Snipers" as they called themselves. We were in Vietnam together and had last seen one another in November 1968 at Dong Ha.

The demonstration numbers were big enough to split our forces. Big groups went to do guerilla-theater to educate people on the true nature of the war in Vietnam. We even had plastic M-16s. Others went to lobby Congress and we all went on marches. We returned to Arlington Cemetery to lay a wreath. We marched to the White House. Some of the Vets got arrested at the steps of the Supreme Court. Some vets even turned themselves in for war crimes, but were not arrested. There was never a dull moment, plus it did not rain!

Walking the halls of Congress, lobbying for the Bill to end the funding for the War was exciting. The presence of Veterans in fatigues always had a big effect. Try to find some Vietnam War Camo fatigues now; good luck.

I was lucky to be in the room when the testimony in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was happening. John Kerry's speech was very moving, to say the least. I remember the Congress members who came to see us and support us on the Mall. Bella Abzug from New York even let us who were on parole or probation sleep on the floor in her office the night we voted to override the Supreme Court's order for us to leave the Mall. The headline the next morning on the Washington papers was, "Vets Override the Supreme Court." Later, we learned that the Bonus Army, 1932, camped on the same block. We were part of Veterans' history. From the Whiskey Rebellion in 1791 to Dewey Canyon IV in 1982. For good reading and pictures, look up the New Soldier - 1971 by VVAW, printed by Macmillan Company (Library of Congress number 76-171990).

On April 23, our last day, we returned our medals, ribbons, discharge papers, even canes and so on. What a day! Overnight, they put up a wood and wire fence surrounding the US Capitol. It blew our minds. But there was no violence. We just left a three foot high pile of these items on the other side of the fence. It took two and a half hours for all of us to pass by that day.

The next day, April 24, was the largest anti-war demo of the Vietnam War and we were asked to lead it. We did!

Operation Heart of America
July 4th weekend 1971
Kansas City, MO

It was organized by the Kansas/Missouri chapter of VVAW. We had met John Upton (RIP), and John "Gunny" Musgrave at DC III. Six of us from Milwaukee drove down in "Hell's Fury" an old Dodge that had a bad front end shake. We camped at the American Legion WWI Memorial Park. We did guerilla theater in the parks and John Musgrave had a bullhorn which he used to explain what really happened in Vietnam.

If you saw the Ken Burns Vietnam War, 10 part series on PBS, you saw John Musgrave in at least two episodes. He was badly wounded with the 3rd Marine Division at Con Thien in 1967. We also had a big march on the last day. As we passed the VFW headquarters, they turned their big neon sign off. There were about 150 of us. I got to cook and it rained really hard Saturday night.

We really miss Johnny Upton. But I'm glad the "Gunny" is still with us, even though he has gotten a haircut. I got one finally in 2010.

Operation Peace on Earth
December 1971

If I remember correctly, it was held in New York City, Chicago, Killeen, Texas and San Francisco. It was timed at the same time VVAW member Barry Romo went to Hanoi with the peace delegation.

Chicago's demonstration base camp was at the IWW Hall on the North Side. I seem to remember over 100 of us. We slept on the floor and I cooked on a hot plate; oatmeal, tuna casserole, and what I called fish gunk (rice, vegetables). We held marches and went to the Chicago Cathedral on Christmas Eve. For some reason, we were going to burn a Christmas tree in protest. The Police had an informer in our group, so the tree was impounded by the cops and put in protective custody. I'm not kidding! Buzz and I met another vet that was in our battalion at Dong Ha—Jess Jesperson (RIP).

We were very proud of New York when they occupied the Statue of Liberty and flew an upside down American flag from her crown. We did a lot of nonviolent actions throughout the years. We were good at it.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975. The US Navy even visits the country now. PTSD is recognized and there are Vets Centers across the country. The VA now recognizes twelve Agent Orange related disabilities, not just chloracne.

When I received successful treatment at the Milwaukee VA hospital for prostate cancer in 2019, I rated an automatic 100% disability rating because it is one of the twelve conditions recognized as caused by the defoliant. My disability decision took 65 days, not 650 days.

You now have your own assigned Dr. and Nurse. PTSD treatment is in groups or one on one. I now love the VA. I guess VVAW's "War on the VA" worked! It took a while, but I'm a proud old VVAW member.

John Lindquist is a long-time VVAW member from Milwaukee, now living in England.

VVAW members inside the Statue of Liberty, December 1971.

Statue of Liberty takeover, December 1971.

VVAW's Operation Heart of America, July 1971.

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