Dialogue between U.S.-based Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Vietnamese veterans at War Remnants Museum, March 20, 2018


 
DSC_7732_resize.JPG



When I first visited this museum in 1994 it was still called by its original name, the American War Crimes Museum. The reference to the U.S. was deleted after diplomatic relations were established between the two former adversaries a year later.  

Whatever its name, the museum’s exhibits tell the same story today as when the museum opened in 1975: that during the American War, U.S. forces had been guilty of the systematic commission of crimes of war against the Vietnamese people.  This was the story I explained as an activist anti-war veteran upon coming home from my own combat tour in 1969.

I had served as a combat intelligence officer with the 11th Light Infantry Brigade – the same unit that had committed the My Lai massacre some eight months before my own arrival. What I experienced there was profoundly transformative. The instances I witnessed that could be legitimately labeled atrocities sickened me, like the torture and beatings of unarmed non-combatants, and the slaughter from relentless air strikes and artillery barrages aimed at a defenseless rural peasantry. 

But I was equally disgusted by the demeaning behavior that some American GIs practiced daily toward the people who we were supposedly there to defend and protect. Unleashed on the Vietnamese were not only the apocalyptic fire power of the foreign invader, but the stain of racism deeply embedded in the culture of the American bully, which I vehemently rejected.  

Twenty-five years had passed before my first return to Vietnam, but the images displayed in this museum were as authentic to me as they had been during those days of antiwar activism.

  Those images matched my personal experience, as well as accounts from scores of fellow veterans, which were made public in 1971 during a series of public hearings that I helped to organize throughout the U.S. following the revelation of the My Lai massacre. These antiwar veterans felt that My Lai had been just “the tip of the iceberg;” that American atrocities had been ubiquitous and had resulted from the policies of our war architects.

During that 1994 visit I was drawn to one exhibit in particular on the American use of chemical defoliants, like Agent Orange, to destroy crops and jungle vegetation.  Suddenly I found myself standing before my own picture, in the form of a book jacket for G.I. Guinea Pigs: How the Pentagon Exposed Our Troops to Dangers More Deadly Than War, an account of the health effects of herbicide exposure on American Vietnam veterans that I had co-authored with my longtime comrade Tod Ensign.  It made me feel proud to be included among the righteous.

An atrocity on the scale of My Lai and the effects of Agent Orange on U.S. veterans  are topics well established by now in the consciousness of informed Americans – and increasingly amplified in the recent commemorative reexaminations of the Vietnam War.

The degree to which mass resistance to the war was organized by its opponents, however, has been given only scant attention even in the United State. In fact, dissenters within the military numbered in the tens of thousands.  They marched, refused to fight, published hundreds of antiwar newspapers, deserted in unprecedented numbers, and, in ways that were both organized and spontaneous, challenged a military command structure that was discriminatory and unjust.     

The exhibit will travel to the University of Notre Dame University in May, and seek additional venues throughout the United States thereafter.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif WE need to teach a new generation of the horrors of war.



DSC_7624_resize.JPG


I was drafted into the Army in 1967. I was against the war and sure as hell didn’t want to go to fight in Vietnam. I connected with the War Resistors League where I met eight other soldiers who had gone AWOL  (Absent With Out Leave). We took sanctuary in a San Fransisco church where we chained ourselves together connecting our arms with those of priests and ministers who came to show their solidarity.

 

At the close of the church service, the Military Police came in, cut our chains and arrested us.  The MPs took us to the Presidio military installation and through usinto the stockade. They paraded Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) by to look at us and taunt us. They told us they were going to put us right onto a plane to Vietnam.

 

While I was at the presidio, there was an incident where an armed guard shot and killed a young soldier, Richard Bunch, who was walking away from a work detail.  The saddest and most troubling part was that Bunch was mentally disturbed and the guards would withhold his psychiatric medication.

 

I didn’t know him well, but I spoke to him briefly several times and the next thing I knew he was murdered by a prison guard, shot in the back as he walked away from a work detail.

 

Then they had a memorial service. We all went because he meant something to us. He was one of us, not one of them.

 

The chaplain stated his murder was justifiable homicide. We knew then that the chain of command was trying to cover up the murder.

 

We decided to do something at roll call after chow.  Half the formation followed me onto the lawn. We all locked arms and sat down. From that time on we were known as the Presidio 27.

 

The Captain ordered us to get up and then opened the book and started reading us the mutiny act. About that time, about sixty Military Police arrived.  They put Walter Pawlowski and me in solitary confinement and named us as ringleaders.

 

Christmas Eve day 1968 we jumped out of a window while we were putting our work tools away and jogged off the post.  On New Year’s Eve we went to Canada. I lived there until 1980 when I came back to live with my two children.

 

I was arrested four years later and served four months in prison before I was finally discharged from the Military in April 1985. My dishonorable discharge states I had been in the military for 17 years and 2 months. You can see a picture of me holding the framed discharge document in a picture on the wall of this exhibit.


 
   
  Date 13/04/2018  

  News
 

   (22/07/2022)

  International Museum Day 2022: The Power of Museums (18/05/2022)

   (29/04/2022)

   (29/04/2022)

  Notice of Change in Opening hours (20/04/2022)

   (06/04/2022)

  Special offer in one and a half months (30/03/2022)

  Notice (27/01/2022)

  New Year geetings from The War Remnants Museum (31/12/2021)

  New Opening Hours (effective from January 1, 2022) (29/12/2021)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10