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Dialogue between U.S.-based Veterans for Peace (VFP) and Vietnamese veterans at War Remnants Museum, March 20, 2018
One of the least known but most important chapters in
the history of the American antiwar movement was the rebellion of troops within
the military. In June 1971 the prestigious military publication Armed Forces Journal published an
article entitled, “The Collapse of the Armed Forces.” Written by a retired
Marine Corps Colonel, the article stated: “The morale, discipline and battle
worthiness of the U.S. armed forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower
and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the
United States.” In
virtually every corner of the military, the burden of fighting an unpopular and
unwinnable war led to dissent, social disruption and institutional decay.
I learned the full story of what happened at My Lai, I was in the Army
stationed at Fort Bliss Texas. I enlisted in 1968 for a stateside assignment hoping
to skate by and avoid the war, but my conscience wouldn’t allow it. Even though
I was stationed far from the front, I was part of the military machine and was
contributing indirectly to a war I came to see as unjust and unwinnable.
basic training they made us watch the propaganda film, Why Vietnam?, with President Johnson drawling on about the supposed
noble purposes of the war. Our commanders tried to convince us that we were
fighting to defend democracy and help the Vietnamese people. The more we learned
about what was actually happening, though, the more skeptical we became. As I talked
with vets coming home and began to read about the history of the war, I became deeply
alarmed and troubled. I could not be silent about something I knew to be wrong.
I felt compelled to speak out against the war even though I was an active duty
was a time of growing dissent and unrest within the military, as in the rest of
society. A widespread antiwar movement was emerging among GIs. We participated
in peace demonstrations, signed antiwar petitions and published underground
newspapers at military bases and aboard ships.
Bliss had an active group called GIs for Peace. We organized protests against
the war and had hundreds of members and supporters among troops at the base. We
published a monthly newspaper, The Gigline,
and had our own GI antiwar coffeehouse in downtown El Paso. When those of us in
the GI movement saw the news of the massacre at My Lai, we were horrified but
not surprised. Our ranks included combat veterans who had recently returned
from the killing zones. We knew how the war was being fought: combat sweeps and
attacks against villages, free-fire zones, and commanders constantly pushing
for higher body counts. The military strategy was to drive people out of their
ancestral villages into so-called strategic hamlets. In such a war, we knew,
civilian casualties were an inevitable and constant reality.
of our members at Ft. Bliss were outraged when a low ranking officer Lt.
William Calley was the only one convicted for the massacre, while all the higher-ups
who ordered the mission got off free. An angry local combat veteran went to the
El Paso police department and asked to be arrested, saying if Calley was guilty
so was he. GIs for Peace responded by convening a public hearing in which he
and other troops testified that they too had attacked civilians and described
what they had done.
Lai was the product of an unjust war that never should have been fought in
which American GIs ended up waging war against the Vietnamese civilians they
were supposedly sent to protect.
Among U.S. troops in Vietnam, organized dissent were
rare, but acts of direct resistance were pervasive and tore at the very fabric
of military capability. By 1970 the Army
and Marine Corps in Vietnam were experiencing widespread defiance and forms of
noncooperation that affected operational capacity. The most significant form of resistance to the war was combat refusal. On August 26, 1969 the headline on the front page of the New York Daily News read “Sir, My Men Refuse to
Go!” with the subtitle “Weary Viet GIs Defy Order.”
You can see the front page headline on the wall of
The article told the story of sixty soldiers in an
Army company near Da Nang who refused direct orders from their commander. There
were many other instances of combat refusal.
One study found 35 incidents of combat refusal in the Army’s 1st
Cavalry Division during 1970. Some of the incidents involved entire units.
This was an average of three combat refusals per month in just one division. If
we extrapolate the experience of the 1st Cavalry to the other six
Army divisions in Vietnam at the time, it is likely that hundreds of mutinous
events occurred in the latter years of the ground war. When commanders sent
their units into the field, they could not be certain that the troops would
The most horrific indication of the breakdown of the
armed forces was the prevalence of fragging, an attack with a fragmentation
grenade. The Army began keeping records
on assaults with explosive devices in 1969. By July 1972, the total number of
fragging incidents had reached 551, with 86 fatalities and over 700 injuries. The targets of these fragging attacks were mostly officers and noncommissioned
officers. The frequency of fragging in Vietnam War indicated an army at war with itself.
It provides grim evidence of the anger and social decay that were tearing the
By 1971 acts of sabotage by Navy crew members became a
serious problem in the Navy. Figures supplied to a Committee of the U.S. House
of Representatives listed 488 acts of “damage or attempted damage” in the Navy
during fiscal year 1971, including 191 incidents of sabotage, 135 arson
attacks, and 162 episodes of “wrongful destruction.”. Two U.S. aircraft carriers were put out of
commission for commission for months by acts of sabotage in July 1972, the
U.S.S. Forrestal and the U.S.S. Ranger. These actions caused major
damage and disrupted Navy operations.
Antiwar dissent and resistance also emerged in the Air
Force. The number of GI papers at air bases jumped from 10 at the beginning of
1971 to 30 a year later. Antiwar coffeehouses opened near several bases, and demonstrations and protest
actions occurred at or near air bases in April and May 1972.
to the second part of the opening ceremony for the Waging Peace exhibit. My name is Chuck Searcy and I am the
president of Veterans For Peace Chapter 160 based in Viet Nam, with some
members living and working in Viet Nam and others outside of the Viet Nam who
stay connected here with humanitarian efforts to heal the wounds of the war,
and with frequent visits to Viet Nam.
the seventh year that our VFP chapter has hosted American veterans to tour Viet
Nam, to see old battle fields that are now serene and peaceful, to look at the serious
damage our country inflicted on Vietnam and the recovery that is still underway,
and to witness projects that are helping to mitigate the continuing legacies of
war, unexploded ordnance and Agent Orange / dioxin.
American tourist, and not every U.S. veteran, wants to know the truth about the
war. But I am pleased to say that most
do seek the truth, and the success of this War Remnants Museum is evidence of
that interest. With over a million
visitors each year, this is the second most popular museum in the whole
year’s Veterans For Peace tour is the largest ever. There were 24 veterans and 15 additional
friends, family members, peace activists who assembled in Ha Noi 16 days ago. Another six VFP members and colleagues joined
us at Son My for the My Lai 50th anniversary commemoration, and an additional
five have joined us here in HCMC.
served in the Army, Navy and the Marine Corps. Some refused to deploy to Vietnam, some found
ways to resist once they arrived. Some deserted the military leaving family and
friends behind as they traveled into exile in Canada, France and Sweden.
us found ways to oppose and try to stop the war while we were in uniform or
after we left the service.
few minutes you will hear some of our stories.
We hope to hear stories from our Vietnamese friends who fought with
honor and passion to liberate your country from yet another foreign power. I would not be surprised if this dialogue, at
the end of our journey, is remembered as one of the most powerful experiences of
scheduled this to be a half-day meeting to allow us to adjourn early and have a
relaxing lunch at a nearby restaurant where we can continue to talk more
informally. We invite our Vietnamese
counterparts, veterans of the battles and of the resistance movement for
independence, to join us as our guests. So,
when this morning’s session ends, don’t go home. Stay.
We’ll have many more stories to share, along
with some good food
Exchange between Con Dao’s Former Political Prisoner – Lê Tú Cẩm and A Delegation of Japanese Teachers (17/01/2019)
Binh Duong Resistance Womens Club visits the War Remnants Museum (10/01/2019)
The seminar on “Being Voluntary” and the story about the strong will of revolutionary soldiers’ through former political prisoner Lê Thanh Cảnh’s talk (11/10/2018)
The Vietnam War Remnants Museum in TripAdvisor’s top 10 in the year 2018 (19/09/2018)
Opening the Exhibition “The Paris Agreement on Vietnam - A Door to Peace” (31/08/2018)
Ceremony to mark the 50th year of Argentine journalist Ignacio Ezcurra’s death held at War Remnants Museum, May 2018 (10/05/2018)
The Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union Branch of the War Remnants Museum held the seminar on “For a Strong Youth Union - For the City Development” and the Maturity ceremony for its members (02/05/2018)
A Revival of Dead Lands (19/04/2018)
My country committed horrible crime against the people of Viet Nam and
we will never be able to fully make it up or apologize for what we have done. I
am truly sorry. Đất nước tôi đã gây ra tội ác khủng khiếp đối với nhân dân Việt Nam và
chúng tôi sẽ không bao giờ có thể bù đắp hay xin lỗi trọn vẹn đối với những gì
chúng tôi đã làm. Tôi thành thật xin lỗi.
I am impressed with the Waging peace in Viet Nam. It should be the
overall goal of this war crime museum. Wars are cruel. Politicians are greedy.
I hope we can all live in harmony and peace. Tôi ấn tượng với triển lãm Làn sóng phản đối cuộc chiến tranh phi nghĩa
của Mỹ ở Việt Nam. Đó nên là mục đích chung của bảo tàng trưng bày về tội ác
chiến tranh này. Chiến tranh thì tàn khốc. Các chính trị gia thì tham vọng. Tôi
hy vọng tất cả chúng ta có thể sống trong hòa hợp và hòa bình
Dear War Remnants Museum and Vietnamese people. This was such a touching, horrifying experience to see the aggression of
the U.S army and the horror of Agent Orange. Starting from the 2nd
floor down, it was nice to see peace emerging and the waging peace in Vietnam
exhibition. Maybe too little too late, but it is a start. May this never happen
again. Thân gửi Bảo tàng Chứng tích Chiến tranh và nhân dân Việt Nam. Đây là một trải nghiệm đong đầy cảm xúc và đáng sợ khi được nhìn thấy hành
động xâm lược của quân đội Mỹ cũng như sự khủng khiếp của chất độc Da cam. Bắt
đầu tham quan từ lầu hai đi xuống, thật tuyêt vời khi nhìn thấy hòa bình xuất
hiện và triển lãm Làn sóng phản đối cuộc chiến tranh phi nghĩa của Mỹ ở Việt
Nam. Có lẽ là vẫn còn quá ít và muộn màng, nhưng đó là sự khởi đầu. Mong rằng
điều này sẽ không tái diễn nữa.
As a first generation Vietnamese - Canadian, this was the single most
profound experience I have ever had. I am filled with both rage and sadness.
The loss my people have suffered was far beyond my limited knowledge. May the
world continue to educate themselves and practice peace and love. Là thế hệ Việt kiều đầu tiên ở Canada, đây là trải nghiệm sâu sắc nhất
mà tôi từng có. Lòng tôi tràn ngập cảm giác phẫn nộ và nỗi buồn. Mất mát mà dân
tộc tôi phải gánh chịu nằm ngoài hiểu biết hạn hẹp của bản thân tôi. Cầu mong mọi
người trên thế giới tiếp tục răn dạy bản thân mình, gìn giữ hòa bình và biết yêu
Probably the hardest museum to walk through and learn about. We are
blessed that we live life like we do. Sometimes we take things for granted and
not appreciate life. Nothing prepared me for this even studying history. Đây có lẽ là bảo tàng khó khăn nhất để có thể tham quan tìm hiểu. Chúng
tôi cảm thấy bản thân mình may mắn khi được sống cuộc sống hiện tại. Đôi khi
chúng ta xem mọi thứ là hiển nhiên và không trân trọng cuộc sống. Tôi không hề
được chuẩn bị thậm chí là việc tìm hiểu lịch sử này.
Shocking. Even though I have read and seen TV, nothing prepared me for
this. Will we ever learn? Sốc. Thậm chí mặc dù tôi đã đọc và xem truyền hình, tôi không hề được
chuẩn bị tâm lý sẵn sàng cho điều này. Chúng ta liệu sẽ rút ra bài học không?
Khi bước vào bảo tàng mới có cơ hội nhìn thấy chứng tích đáng sợ của chiến
tranh, mới thấy đau đớn cho những con người xấu số thời bấy giờ đã phải hứng chịu
sự tàn khốc từ những cuộc chiến tranh phi nhân đạo. Vô cùng khâm phục sự hy
sinh anh dũng, chiến đấu hết mình vì Tổ quốc của những người chiến sĩ.
Thật sự cảm kích trước sự hi sinh và chiến đấu anh dũng của ông cha ta.
May mắn là thế hệ sinh sau đẻ muộn, sống trên mảnh đất được gầy dựng bởi bao
xương máu của các anh hùng chiến sĩ, chúng em nhất định phải sống thật tử tế, cống
hiến tất cả những gì có thể cho mảnh đất hình chữ S đầy thương yêu
Chiến tranh thật sự đáng sợ, làm tắt đi những sức sống trẻ, ngắt đi những
mầm non chưa kịp nhú, làm những trái tim vụn vỡ những yêu thương, để lại những
đồng hoang trơ trọi, những ngôi nhà đổ nát, những trường học tan hoang. Làm, sống
và cống hiến những gì là điều chúng tôi và bạn có thể làm. Kết nối tình bạn,
san sẻ yêu thương và cả tha thứ. Những điều đã làm là quá khứ dù có màu sắc gì
đi nữa. Những gam màu tươi sáng vẫn đang chờ chúng ta cùng nhau tô điểm.
Friendship - Peace - Hope (Hữu nghị - Hòa bình - Hy vọng).
Cảm xúc không thể diễn tả bằng lời! Chiến tranh thật đáng sợ. Chúng em cảm
thấy may mắn, biết ơn khi được sinh ra trong thời đại hòa bình. Cảm thấy đồng cảm
với những hoàn cảnh bất hạnh. Cảm xúc chung của chúng em qua những bức ảnh, hiện
vật, tàn tích thật sự không thể tả bằng lời!
© 2017 Bảo tàng chứng tích chiến tranh