Against the War
A novel of the Vietnam War era by Roland Menge

Documentation Examples

Against the War is a documentary novel set in a precise historical timeframe with much substantiation of how the issues of the time become known to those faced with decisions about them. All facts presented are based on sources such as articles in the New York Times and these are cited by author and date in the novel's 50-page bibliography. Here are some examples of documentary passages containing historical facts. 

Morris, while training as a pilot, follows news of the war.
       As for the war itself, James Morris, since the Tet Offensive, had followed its progress on almost a daily basis, trying to get a sense of how various changes in status would affect his duties as a combat pilot when he went overseas.
       The most startling change had occurred on March 31, 1968. On that day, in the same speech in which he had announced his intention to not seek renomination, President Johnson had also announced that U.S. forces would suspend bombing operations north of the 20th Parallel. The most populous areas of North Vietnam, including Hanoi and Haiphong, were outside the area of bombing activity.
       Due to this change in operations, Thunderchief flights leaving from Thailand no longer followed the traditional Rolling Thunder route over “Thud Ridge” to industrial and transportation targets in the Red River Valley north of Hanoi. The Rolling Thunder campaign was now limited to air-to-ground support and interdiction in the North Vietnam panhandle, mostly along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
       Johnson had stated in the same speech that he intended restriction of bombing as a peace gesture. He had invited the North Vietnamese to begin negotiations for an end to the war.
       This olive branch had had its desired effect in the start of peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam. Ironically, for Morris and his fellow trainees, the first day of talks occurred in Paris on May 12, the first day of their final two-week section of training.
       The morning newspaper showed the U.S. representative, W. Averall Harriman, with his back to the camera, shaking hands with the broadly smiling representative of North Vietnam, Xuan Thuy.
       Morris wondered, as he headed to class, whether the long-fought war was really coming to an end. Various newspaper articles that he had read suggested that the peace talks would go on for a long time. Some war analysts suspected that the North Vietnamese were merely using the talks to lull the U.S. into a waiting posture.
       If that was the case, the North Vietnamese were going about it in a strange way, Morris thought. They had stepped up mortar and rocket attacks against allied bases, especially in the pandhandle area, just below the Demilitarized Zone. Also, they had launched an offensive against the southern capital, Saigon. The attack, still in progress, had been contained with the enemy losing ground.
       Whatever might be the outcome in these small skirmishes, one thing was clear, the air war had been demoted, Morris observed to himself. He would be over there fighting in a hamstrung, less glorious phase of whatever was left of it.

Bill O’Rourke hears what’s happening at the 1968 Democratic Convention from his graduate student brother Patrick. Patrick’s account is drawn from newspaper accounts of the time describing the events occurring at the convention.
       On the L-train, under the influence of the passing Chicago scene, the conversation turned to the convention. Patrick, in keeping with his graduate studies in political science, had been following the events closely. The big news there, he said, was that the platform committee, just the night before, had adopted a pro-Administration Vietnam plank, thereby rejecting the anti-war plank put forward by a coalition of dissidents.
       “The plank they adopted is exactly what the Administration wants,” he explained. “It calls for a conditional halt in the bombing, with the out that if there’s any setback in the field, if Hanoi doesn’t do this or that, then the bombing can begin again.”
       “What does anti-war plank call for?” asked the younger brother.
       “It calls for a bombing halt, period,” Patrick replied. “It calls for a good faith effort to include the Viet Cong in negotiations. So far they’ve been excluded.”     
       “So it’s over then?” queried the former coxswain.
       “Over? Haw!” said Patrick. “No way is it over, boy! This plank is going to the floor!”
       “So what’s the significance of that, taking it to the floor?” the younger brother asked, trying to follow. These nuances of politics were new to him.
       “The significance is this,” the older brother replied importantly. “First, why did this plank get defeated in committee? Were the individual committee members all in conscience against it? No, they were not. The truth of the matter is, about two-thirds of them are, in effect, owned. And who is the owner? The big Triple H.... Take the case to the floor and that forces the issue, on Triple H. Will he release his delegates to vote based on conscience? We’ve got, here in Chicago, two and a half thousand ‘representatives’ of a hundred and fifty million people... speaking on behalf of one of our great political parties, a party that calls itself ‘democratic.’ And will they be allowed to vote on conscience on a matter as important as the Vietnam War? Bill, can you think of anything more important, in politics at the moment, than the Vietnam War?”
       “No, I can’t,” the younger brother answered. 
       “Well, that’s the significance. Eugene McCarthy said it well, ‘What we have done is to take the theory of democracy and put it into practice.’ That’s what we’re doing here, democracy! The older generation fought to win it, then they forgot what it is. We’ve remembered what it is. We’re fighting for it, too, in our own way.”

Matt Brand and his photography mentor Fr. Dan Riley listen to television reports prior to the 1968 presidential elections. The comments reported here (by the “college professor”) are drawn from a New York Times interview that appeared on the specified date.
       That evening, seated with Fr. Dan Riley in the priest’s comfortable den next to the kitchen, Matthew Brandt began to understand, for the first time, that the rancor and divisiveness that Fr. Dan had described as being beneath the surface in Appalachia was in evidence throughout the country in the political races taking place in that election year.
       An announcer said as much in a TV program on the national campaign that the priest had selected in advance as entertainment for the evening for him and his young friend.
       “Arguably not since the Civil War has this democratic nation known such division, pitting parents against sons and daughters, whites against blacks, ‘haves’ against ‘have-nots,’ ‘hawks’ against ‘doves,’ as in this embattled election year,” were the exact words spoken.
       “One highly visible side of this national division,” the announcer continued, “embodied in the young people all across this country who have taken up a position against the war, has been at center stage throughout this campaign. Determined not to become foot soldiers in a war they claim not to believe in, they have become foot soldiers in another war, a war for political change.”
       The TV screen then displayed scenes such as Brandt had seen before of young people his own age taking part in the electoral process: knocking on doors in a New Hampshire snowstorm in their effort to win the primary for Eugene McCarthy; cheering for Robert Kennedy in California outside the hotel where their champion was soon to be shot; chanting “Peace Now!” as they marched down Michigan Avenue in Chicago with the police watching grimly. There were scenes, also, of young people throwing rocks and carrying battle flags as they dashed through plumes of tear gas.
       “Where are these young people now, with all their energy and vocal presence?” the announcer asked. “In many areas of the nation, they are strangely absent, their voice is strangely muted, in a campaign they seemed to care so much about.”
       The scene that showed then was of Hubert Humphrey standing before a group of college students, some with signs. The students were neatly-dressed, mostly quiet types such as might have been seen in the campaigns of the 1950’s. They were not the long-haired, ebullient types who had occupied the screen a moment before.
       A college professor brought into the program talked of a “palpable absence” in the youth political scene. “I read an article in the New York Times, by Doug Kneeland, just today that made that point very well,” the professor remarked. “The article spoke of ‘an absence as real as presence, called by many names’ -- meaning, of course, names of candidates favored by young people and now gone from the scene... Robert F. Kennedy, Eugene J. McCarthy, even, sometimes, Nelson A. Rockefeller, the article said. -- The article said that young people have left the national campaign because they don’t have a sense anymore of anyone caring back about the things they care about themselves.”
       “So the energy is gone then, this great energy that we saw in the spring and summer, that was so evident in New Hampshire, California, and Chicago?” an interviewer asked.
       “Gone? Lord, no,” the professor replied. He was himself a young man with a refined hippie-like appearance, though dressed in a sport coat and tie. “The energy is not gone. The idealism is not gone. It has just been redirected.”
       “Redirected where?”
       “Well, first to qualify, some of it does remain in the traditional process. Some of it has gone over to Humphrey’s campaign... But the bulk of it has gone elsewhere. And where to? In part, to local campaigns where issues of community control, People’s Park in Berkeley, for example, are more clearly drawn. In part, to intensified opposition to the Vietnam War, into national rallies planned for this fall, for example,... regardless of who occupies the White House. In part to more radical parties, the Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society, and so on. In part, outside of the system entirely, to communes and other forms of dropping out. I think we will see more of that as time goes by, due to frustration in being unable to change the system from within.”

The Mountain Volunteers listen to the 1968 election returns. These facts are not fictional, they are true to the events reported in the news on the night of the election.
       The election coverage began with a report on two events of the past week regarded as affecting the disposition of the volatile electorate with respect to the presidential candidates. The first event was the November 1 complete bombing halt that the MVs already knew had given Hubert Humphrey a last-minute boost in the polls. The second event was one that none of them had paid much attention to, however.
       The gist of it was, on the day after the bombing halt, the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, apparently anticipating additional pressure to cooperate in expanded peace talks including his own government and the National Liberation Front, the political arm of the Viet Cong, had delivered a defiant speech to a joint session of the National Assembly. In that speech, “interrupted by applause and cheers 15 times,” Nguyen had said that South Vietnam would not enter the peace talks in Paris until the North Vietnamese had agreed to negotiate without the NLF, as it was commonly called.
       “Those who have followed the progress of the efforts for peace seem to have taken this to prove that the Democratic peace initiative is mired down in South Vietnamese politics and cannot succeed,” the announcer said. “And spot polls indicate that that perception has played into Republican hands. Hubert Humphrey has lost his surge, it appears. Richard Nixon has regained a two- to three-point advantage. George Wallace has gained with increased support from those who would like to see our armed forces set free to fight an all-out war for an all-out victory in Vietnam.”
       In a detailed analysis based on the final polls, Nixon was reported as being ahead in 30 states with a total of 299 electoral votes. That was 29 votes more than the 270 vote majority required for victory. Humphrey was ahead in eight states and the District of Columbia for a total of 99 votes. Wallace was ahead in the five states of the Deep South, which in total had 45 votes. Seven states were too close to call.

In April 1969 Brandt comes upon the Rolling Stone edition called “Revolution.” This chapter contains quotes from the actual articles that appeared at the time.
       The whole issue was about confrontation, obviously, Brandt soon determined, judging by the photos printed with the text throughout. Most of them were photos of crowd situations. On Page 3, a black youth, with both hands upraised, stood in front of a cheering crowd. A smaller photo on the same page showed fists raised in defiance in front of a familiar scene, a mass demonstration of some kind. Other photos showed youths running through plumes of tear gas or confronting helmeted police. In another photo, a group of at most a dozen youths with defiant faces and holding a flag stood in the midst of an assembly of several hundred students seated in an orderly manner in chairs. “Their red flag aloft, militants move to control a student conference,” the caption said.
       Amidst all these photos of confrontations, there was, in addition, a basic theme running through the whole magazine that the confrontations were not just occurring but getting more intense on both sides. It was somewhat the same theme as presented in the seminar Brandt had attended at school the month before, the one in which the counter-culture had been explained as a response to the war. Only in this article, Brandt noted, the pitch had been turned a notch higher. 
       The lead article, by Michael Rossman, a self-described “campus traveler in the education reform movement,” referred to the growth in intensity as “ideological hardening.” 
       “The hard edge of the student movement has gotten even harder,” wrote Rossman. “Since its founding in 1962 (as an offshoot of the League for Industrial Democracy), the Students for a Democratic Society has grown to be the most important young white political group with over 300 local chapters and some 200,000 active sympathizers.
       “At first, SDS rhetoric and concerns centered around ‘participatory democracy.’ Then it became preoccupied by the Vietnam War. Now, largely in response to hard-line pressure form the Progressive Labor Party (with their acrid insistence on the importance of a worker/student alliance a la France), SDS has gone over to a stance based on an updated version of Marxism: direct attack on the total institution of American Imperialism.
       “On the campuses, the ideological hardening is expressed in sit-ins against Marine recruitment (at Oberlin in Ohio), against involvement in chemical and biological warfare research and other university roles in the Vietnam War Games (at Pennsylvania State University), and against the university’s nature as a racist institution (at Brandeis in Waltham, Massachusetts).”
       Brandt had been aware of events like this, on some level, at least, having gathered parts of them from tidbits of news passed around lately at school and before that between himself and his fellow MVs during his year and a half in Kentucky. The connection to radical political groups was new to him, though. He wasn’t sure what to make of it. 
       Beyond that, the article ascribed to students and young people in general a unity and underclass status that to Brandt’s sense of the situation was a new twist. “America’s 2700 colleges form a great youth ghetto with 7,000,000 inhabitants. Higher education itself is only one of a cluster of campuses now coming alive with violence and change.” 
       The same dynamic had spread to non-college communities of youths, Rossman claimed. “After the media discovered the Haight-Ashbury in 1966, sister communities appeared in every major American city. The gift of the Haight’s media martyrdom was that a second great youth ghetto -- a voluntary one -- became visible. At first, its talk was all of flowers and grass and music. But lately the rhetoric and action have gone hard in the hippy ghetto.”
       Brandt read that holding it at a distance in his mind. He was aware that a process of self-segregation had occurred among young people like himself, -- people who were, generally speaking, “against the war.” -- He was aware that colonies of young people such as “the Haight” had sprung up in many places, especially near campuses. The “West Bank” and “Dinkytown,” near the University of Minnesota, in his home state of Minnesota, were examples of that. He was aware that lately the mood in such colonies had gotten less “flower child” and more somber as people persisted sometimes in a hand-to-mouth existence and as clashes related to drugs had increased. But to call such places “ghettos,” akin to big city black ghettos like Harlem and Watts, seemed far-fetched. To call a student campus a ghetto was even more of a stretch, in his estimation.

Steward, living in Santa Barbara, California, receives a letter from pilot Morris on May 15, 1969, and reeducates himself on the war. The articles described are those that actually occurred in the New York Times on the specified date. 
       Turning from the mission, Steward pedaled along under the palms of Los Olivos Avenue, turning again onto State Street by the ice cream store where he often went with Art and Nancy. Three blocks down State Street, by a corner store, he came upon a newspaper box with the New York Times
       He hopped off the bike and leaned over to look through the glass. A three-column headline said: “NIXON ASKS TROOP PULLOUT IN A YEAR AND WOULD JOIN VIETNAM POLITICAL TALKS.” Below that headline was a photograph of the president, with a determined expression, standing behind the Presidential Seal. “SPEAKS TO THE NATION,” said a one-column headline next to that, “Hints Partial Cutback of U.S. Forces Will Come in Any Case.”
       Despite this being so-called “news,” Steward’s first take on it was hadn’t he heard it before? Hadn’t Nixon talked of a pullout months before, in fact, on first taking office in January? The effect of reading this news was to make you want to turn away. And why not, with the beach and the ocean so close at hand? Evening was settling in with great swirls of clouds in the west promising a splendid sunset. 
       But the war was still there, Steward reminded himself, even if he was having trouble, anymore, keeping the elements of the whole situation from becoming a boggled mess in his mind. 
       He peered more closely through the glass of the newspaper box to read the text under the banner headline.
       The article went as follows: 
       “President Nixon proposed tonight a phased, mutual withdrawal of the major portions of the United States, allied and North Vietnamese forces from South Vietnam over a 12-month period.
       “Then, according to Mr. Nixon’s proposal, the remaining non-South Vietnamese forces would withdraw to enclaves, abide by a cease-fire and complete their withdrawals. 
       “The President made the proposal in a nationwide television address in which he gave his first full-length report to the country on the war in Vietnam.
       “Although the President indicated that such full-scale withdrawals would probably require lengthy negotiations, he hinted strongly that ‘the time is approaching’ when some partial reductions of combat troops could be accomplished regardless of what happens in Paris.”
       Steward paused for a moment, calculating his expenses. Then he took two quarters from his pocket and dropped them into the coin slot in the newspaper box. He pulled the front cover of the box forward and took a newspaper from inside.
       Turning the newspaper over, he noticed a two-column headline below the picture of the president. “2 Vietcong Aides in Paris Call Their Plan ‘a Whole’,” the headline said. 
       Hadn’t the Vietcong presented such a plan before, in fact, a series of them, Steward asked himself as he sat down on a stone wall next to the store to read the paper.
       He read the text below the headline:
       “Two leaders of the National Liberation Front at the Vietnam peace talks here declared today that the Front’s 10-point program ‘forms a whole.’ Tran Buu Kiem, head of the delegation, and Mrs. Nguyen Thi Binh, his deputy, added that negotiations could and should take place on the basis of the principles and content of the program.”
       Seeing, just below that paragraph, an italicized note indicating that “excerpts from the interview with Mrs. Binh” could be found on page 17, Steward turned to that page, where his attention was drawn instead to the facing page, page 16, which was taken up entirely by a transcript of Nixon’s speech and summaries of the NLF and U.S. positions, including the “10-point program” of the NLF. 
       In the midst of this text was a three-column-wide photo of the U.S. Secretary of State, William P. Rogers, arriving for allied talks in South Vietnam. He was shown leaving his plane at Tansonnhut Airport, accompanied by the South Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Tran Chanh Thanh, as well as by several MPs with their rifles at ready arms.
       The first point listed in the summary of the 10-point program was: “Vietnamese independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity are to be respected, as provided by the 1954 Geneva agreements.” The second point was: “The United States must unconditionally withdraw all of its forces and liquidate its bases in Vietnam.” Other points called for: the right of the Vietnamese themselves to “resolve the question of military forces in South Vietnam;” the right of the Vietnamese to settle their affairs “without foreign interference” through “free and democratic elections;” the determination of Vietnam (North and South together) to be a neutral nation “without any military alliances” and hosting no foreign bases or troops. The points also called for mutual release of prisoners of war and international supervision of military withdrawal.
       When asked (in the interview on the facing page) whether point 2, withdrawal of American troops, was required to be completed before point 3, resolution of the question of Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam (meaning, presumably, Northern as well as Southern forces), Nguyen Thi Binh replied: “The United States, who are the aggressors in Vietnam, must withdraw all their forces without making any conditions. The question of Vietnamese armed forces in South Vietnam will be resolved by the Vietnamese parties among themselves.”
       President Nixon, in the transcript of his speech, remarked: 
       “The United States has suffered over a million casualties in four wars in this century. Whatever faults we may have as a nation, we have asked nothing for ourselves in return for those sacrifices. We’ve helped our former foes as well as our friends in the task of reconstruction. We are proud of this record and we bring the same attitude in our search for a settlement in Vietnam. 
       “In this spirit, let me be explicit about several points: 
       “We seek no bases in Vietnam. 
       “We seek no military ties. 
       “We are willing to agree to neutrality for South Vietnam if that is what the South Vietnamese people choose freely.”
       The contrast was obvious, Steward noted, between Nixon’s references to “South Vietnamese” and Nguyen’s references to “Vietnamese” (without the distinction between North and South).
       “Remarks from Hanoi indicate that the enemy has given up hope for a military victory in South Vietnam,” Nixon was quoted as saying in another part of the transcript, “but is counting on a collapse of American will in the United States. There could be greater error in judgment... Let me be quite blunt. Our fighting men are not going to be worn down. Our mediators are not going to be talked down. And our allies are not going to be let down.”
       Inside the newspaper on other pages, Steward found some interesting facts. There were presently 542,000 American troops serving in Vietnam, he read. Eleven of them had died in the previous week -- eight from the Army, three from the Marines. Also, despite talk of a peace agreement, the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong had not pulled back on their activities. In the previous week, they had staged 159 rocket attacks throughout South Vietnam, a campaign not on the scale of Tet but nonetheless involving seven provincial capitals and 21 district towns.
       In Paris, site of the peace talks, “the renewal of large-scale enemy attacks in South Vietnam was regarded... as motivated, at least in part, by a desire to show that the Vietcong’s 10-point peace plan was not a sign of military exhaustion,” another article noted. “Information from Communist sources connected with the peace talks indicated that neither the North Vietnamese nor the Front believes that the revival of offensive operations will affect the American Administration’s attitude on withdrawal of troops from South Vietnam.
       “The assumption, repeated often, is that the American public is sick of the war and insistent on withdrawal. The new offensive, these sources seem sure, will serve to confirm the belief that the war is hopeless and must be brought to an end.”
       On another page, Steward found a new development. President Nixon, the previous day, had called for Congress to bring an end to the current draft system and replace it with a “lottery system.” 
       One feature of the new system, as Steward understood it, would be for men of draft age to only be exposed to the lottery for one year, after which, if not lottery-selected, they would be draft-ineligible for ever more, thus freeing them to proceed with their lives. Also, the youngest, rather than the oldest, would be first subject to the call. 
       “For almost two million young men who reach the age of military service each year, and for their families,” Nixon was quoted as saying, “the draft is one of the most important facts of life. It is my conviction that the disruptive impact of the military draft should be minimized as much as possible, consistent with the national security.”
       Steward knew the draft had not only been “a source of disruption,” but also a principal source of the counterculture -- and, through that, of the revolution in values taking place among people his own age. Without the draft, would “flower children” and the “Movement” have ever occurred? He doubted that they would have. Could it be that this attempt to minimize the “disruptive impact of the military draft,” as it was represented, in context of a war overseas, was also an attempt to stem the forces that had resulted in the ongoing cultural war in the domestic United States? Could it be that Nixon and his political allies (along with their financial contributors) saw the cultural war at home as just as important, or maybe more important, than the geopolitical war being fought ten thousand miles away in Vietnam?
       Remembering Morris’s letter, Steward searched the paper for news of the air war that his “old buddy” was involved in. He recalled hearing from someone, maybe Mary Brandt, that many of Morris’s flights were over Laos. He found no mention of the Air Force at all. The only reference he could find to pilots or flight was an article on the space program entitled “Astronauts Get Briefing on Reconnoitering Lunar Surface.” A picture showed an air machine called Droop Snoot, “designed to provide uninterrupted communicating between Apollo 10 and earth radio...”
       “It is T-minus-4 (the fourth day before lift-off),” the article said, “for the $24-billion Apollo project’s dress rehearsal flight before men attempt the first landing on the moon this summer... At one point in the mission, Colonel Stafford and Commander Cernan will crawl into the lunar landing craft, detach it from the command ship and rocket to within 50,000 feet of the moon’s surface.
       “The main purpose of the mission is to test the lunar module in the moon’s vicinity, check out its radar capabilities to control a descent and determine how to navigate the two ships in the moon’s gravitational field... If Apollo 10 is successful, the plan is for Apollo 11 to be launched on July 16 for the lunar landing on July 20.”
       Moments later, Steward did encounter a mention of the air war in Laos. It was within an article entitled “HANOI HINTS SHIFT ON POLICY IN LAOS,” buried on an inside page. 
       The article dealt, in the main, with North Vietnamese contacts with the Laotian premier, Prince Souvanna Phouma: “part of a larger peace offensive connected with the peace proposals of the South Vietnamese National Liberation Front, or Vietcong, at the Paris talks on Vietnam... Laotian sources suggested that the North Vietnamese move reflected the disillusionment with the civil war in Laos and the increase in American bombing there... 
       “Since November, when the United States stopped bombing North Vietnam, the bombing of Laotian targets had reportedly increased four or fivefold, inflicting heavy casualties on North Vietnamese troops along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in other areas of Laos. The bombing is designed to    reduce the flow of supplies to the Vietcong.”
       The level of detail struck Steward as an irony consistent with the whole situation, that the activity that had brought Morris to a state of having “something eating inside (him) about the war” was regarded as worthy of only two paragraphs in the New York Times.

After the first “Moratorium Against the War,” in October, 1969, Mary Brandt looks through the newspaper to get a sense of who participated in it nationwide. Again, all these facts are historically true.
       All across the country, there had been demonstrations and marches, Mary had learned from the newspaper before her, but involvement had been spotty and inconsistent, not the “regular groundswell” that Dennis Kelly had alluded to on the walk home from the march.
       She read in one article by Bernard Weinraub:
       “Marching in crisp 50-degree weather, nearly 10,000 students and professors from Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis and other local schools surged onto Cambridge Commons for a noisy rally that heard from George Wald, the Nobel Prize-winning biologist.
       “‘You cannot have an honorable peace to a dishonorable war,’ Wald told the students who then marched almost jubilantly to downtown Boston Commons for another rally with nearly 100,000 demonstrators, including tens of thousands of high school youths and students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University and Brandeis.”
       Other demonstrations mentioned were only in the hundreds, in number of participants. 
       “The impact of the moratorium on campuses was wide-ranging and curiously disparate,” the same article by Weinraub said. “The protest turned out sparse crowds at such traditionally radical campuses as San Francisco State and C.C.N.Y., where most students remained at home and failed to appear at college antiwar rallies... There were surprisingly small turnouts, too, at the University of California, Berkeley -- where rain probably reduced rally crowds -- Brooklyn College, Princeton, and Dartmouth -- as well as the University of South Carolina and Arizona State.”
       “At other schools, however -- barely known for radical activities  --  the antiwar protests and the moratorium’s impact proved considerable...
       “At President Nixon’s alma mater, Whittier College in California, the wife of the acting president, Harold Case, lit a butane ‘flame of life.’ Demonstration organizers said that the flame was ‘a constant reminder of those who have died and are dying on the Vietnam battleground.’”
       Mary Brandt read on.
       “There were odd, affecting moments, too. At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, 200 students of the Asa Gray Dormitory planted daffodils and tulips in the design of a peace symbol.
       “Nearly 200 miniskirted Vassar College coeds stepped through the gates of the United States Military Academy at West Point in midafternoon and handed daffodils and apples to dozens of startled cadets. The girls walked to a sun-dappled lawn, sang ‘America the Beautiful’ and then left, smiling as readily as when they arrived.”
       In other articles throughout the paper (of Thursday, October 15, 1969), Mary encountered other reports and commentaries.
       In New York City, as an article by Homer Bigart described, “tens of thousands” of protesters had rallied in Manhattan in Bryant Park, creating “a colossal traffic jam during the evening rush hour.”
       “The park was saturated with people,” the article went on, “many of them unable to see the speaker’s stand or hear the denunciations of war by Mayor Lindsay and Senators Charles E. Goodell, Jacob K. Javitts and Eugene J. McCarthy.”
       A front page photograph showed McCarthy on the speaker stand (from a point of view directly behind him) as he addressed a throng of people that spread out in front of him in all directions, completely jamming the park (noted elsewhere as 9.6 acres) and extending into trees and streets that appeared to be about a hundred yards away.
       Many previously non-committal groups, with respect to the war, such as politically middle-of-the-road labor organizations and churches, had announced support for the Moratorium. Business people and stock brokers, dressed in suits, had joined in a rally on Wall Street.
       “President Nixon now can no longer harbor any illusions that the desire for a break with past policies is held only by radical splinter groups,” an editorial proclaimed (under the heading, “In the Wake of the Moratorium”). “The nature of the coalition which joined in the war is not dominated by those who demand an unconditional pullout of American forces nor is it seriously influenced by a fringe that wants not peace, but revolution in alliance with Hanoi.”
       Mary had noticed, also, however, in the article by Weinraub, that the Crimson, the official student newspaper of Harvard, “had come out editorially in support of the National Liberation Front in Vietnam, the political arm of the Vietcong.
       “The Crimson said that the front, ‘whom we’ve been trying to exterminate, has the support of the people of Vietnam’ and therefore ‘it deserves our support.’
       “‘And we can best support the N.L.F. in exactly the same way that we can best support our own troops -- by demanding that all American troops be withdrawn from Vietnam completely.’”
       Counterdemonstrations had been widespread, also, Mary read. Most of them had been less organized and more subtle, but still they had shown an intense opposition to the demonstrators: flags flown at halfmast, jeers thrown at passing marchers, isolated individuals with signs such as one Mary had noticed the night before -- “United We Stand.”

All military information is also historically accurate, as provided in the intelligence briefing that Bill O’Rourke attends after being assigned to Fire Support Base Ripcord in May, 1970.
       The strategic importance of the A Shau Valley and related military operations that had occurred in it and around it were the topic of Brown’s remarks. He delivered the remarks like a college professor, standing at a lectern in the well of a room within a half-circle of arced rows of seats stepped upward on all sides. His audience consisted of about 30 men, both E-ranked and officers, from different branches of the service. These were all people new to the topic like himself, O’Rourke concluded. They were being oriented to how the A Shau Valley fit in the overall war.
       “The first amazing thing we must note about the A Shau Valley is it less than 30 miles from where we meet in tranquility like students today,” Brown began. “So you can imagine the terror and instability that was felt two years and four months ago, approximately, when the North Vietnam Army (the so-called NVA) suddenly broke from that valley all the way to this coastal area including the Imperial City, Hue.
       “The second thing we must say, to quote the COMUSMACV, our Military Commander, Vietnam, ‘the A Shau Valley is the most important strategic area in this war.’
       “Now what is this valley and why it is so important?
       “Physically, -- or geographically, I guess you could say, -- the A Shau is the narrow, northwest-to-southeast-lying bed of the Rao Lao River, bordered by steep mountain jungle slopes. Valley floor’s about elevation 2000. Ridges above are 3000 to 4000. Some peaks are at 7000.
       “It’s a rough area, in other words, and when I say ‘narrow,’ I mean ‘narrow.’” Brown continued, gesturing and speaking enthusiastically in his ‘history buff’ manner. “In some cases, a couple hundred yards, though the main valley’s a mile or so wide. But the narrowness here and there is what has led to the ‘crimp points’ interdiction you maybe heard about, where we hit the squeeze areas to prevent the passage of supplies.
       “Passage of supplies is what it’s all about. Passage of supplies is why this valley’s so important. You can see that here on this map of Laos and Vietnam. The red line coming down from North Vietnam through Laos, in a northwest to southeast direction, paralleling the border, is a little trail you may have heard called the ‘Ho Chi Minh,’ the main supply line of the Viet Cong and NVA troops in South Vietnam. It goes down through Laos because that is a place our ground forces can’t go, on account of Laos is a neutral country, or so they say. We do hit the area with our planes. But that’s top secret, don’t let anyone know.”
       Here there was laughter that Brown acknowledged with a grin, while all the while keeping his focus on the map.
       “How many supplies are we talking about? Our estimates are that thousands of tons per year, on the order of eight tons per day, pass through Tcepone, Laos, here” (Orin said, pointing to a point on the map about 40 miles northwest of Hue). At Tcepone, the supplies are divided and routed in several directions represented by the green lines you can see on the map. These lines have different thicknesses, as you can see, and the thickest line leading into our XXIV Corp region of Thua Thien and Quong Tri is Lao Route 922 going east to Vietnam” (Brown went on, tracing the route with his pointer). At this point, where this is, or was, an enemy facility called Warehouse 54, the route connects to Vietnam Route 548, which, following the green line, goes southeast through the A Shau Valley to Nam Route 547, and then up 547 to Hue. This was the main supply line for the NVA when they attacked the Citadel during Tet. Indeed, just two years ago, the NVA was actively improving 547, engineering it, bulldozing it, to provide themselves with a direct truck route into Hue.
       “Now, A Shau has been called the “most important strategic area,” as I mentioned earlier, but, as the other green lines on our map show, Lao 922 is not the only spur between the Ho Chi Minh Trail. There are other routes -- 926, 925, 9, -- with pretty much the same situation, tactically, and all of these areas have received a fair share of attention, with major operations launched in this area by the XXIV Corps last year. 
       “You know the names, probably. Going north to south through Quang Tri and Thua Thien, these operations were Purple Martin, Maine Crag, Dewey Canyon, and Massachusetts Striker, in March to May last year, then, during the summer, Herkimer Mountain, Cameron Falls, and Apache Snow. Some of these have been conducted, as you can see, in the northern province, Quang Tri, but all of these operations are, in effect, past of the same picture, they are part of the A Shau dynamic.
       “Going back to the Tet, two and half years ago, that was a low point, we can all agree. Since then, as a result of the operations just mentioned, we have made tremendous progress on the ground. We have learned a lot about the enemy order of battle and lines of communication in A Shau. We have taken over thousands of enemy documents. We have seized supplies, roads, and buildings.
       “To put this into perspective in terms of Allied gains, we can look at one successful operation, Dewey Cannon, which a report by Col. Bert Aton and Bill Thorndale of CHECO summarizes. As a result of this operation, and here I quote, ‘Allies captured or destroyed 1233 individual and 243 crew-served weapons, eleven 122-mm and four 85-mm artillery pieces, 56 AAA mostly 12.7-mm and 20-mm guns, and 110 tons of rice. Enemy vehicles destroyed or damaged included 66 trucks, 14 tractors, three armored personnel carriers, and six artillery prime movers. Air Force records showed 15 bulldozers captured or destroyed.’
       “So this is big stuff, in other words, though the results don’t come without sacrifices, in this case, 130 KIAs on our side. On the enemy side, however, there were 1617 KIAs. That is an indication of our typical superiority in these operations.
       “To give another indication of our success in interdicting these supply routes, -- and the oft-maligned Battle of Hamburger Hill was a big part of this outcome, -- the enemy has found it so difficult to move their materiel down the old routes through the A Shau and these other routes that go directly through the XXIV Corps that they have been forced to detour their main supply line down the Ho Chi Minh to Chavan (this blue line on the map here), then east by Lao 966 and northeast along Nam 14. This detour doubles their distance to their Base Area 112.
       “Another result of success in the A Shau interdiction, two and half years after Tet, is we’re no longer so concerned with supplies going down Route 458, through the A Shau directly, as we are with alternate routes being developed, such as along Route 546 here, ten miles north of A Shau, and smaller routes, often no more than foot trails. 
       “This is the area hit last year by Dewey Cannon and Apache Snow. Our recent new firebase, Ripcord, put into place just two months ago, in April, by the 101st Airborne, is continuing in the task of keeping this ‘side traffic,’ so to speak, under control. 
       “Ripcord is located five miles south of Route 546 and immediately north of the Rao Thana valley where some of the main alternate routes, now often just foot trails are located, not far from enemy base areas 101 and 114. The rationale is, by keeping the squeeze on in area, we can secure the whole of Thien Thua before we hand it over to the ARVN.
       “This is our present course, gentlemen, and we see every reason that it will follow in the success of our previous course.”

After returning to the United States, former POW Jim Morris reads an account of the My Lai trial occurring at that time. This chapter gives the actual, verbatim closing remarks of the defense attorney at the trial.
       Morris realized as he studied the picture that it was either the same incident that Maj. Xuan Than had told him about or something very close. He searched for the unit name of the soldiers that had committed the atrocity and found they were a unit of the Americal division, the division Than had mentioned.
       Soon later, Morris found another item of immense interest to him, a full page transcript of the prosecution and defense summations in the trial, which had just been delivered several days before.
       A comment by the defense attorney, George Latimer, drew Morris’s full attention. The comment went as follows:
       “I believe most of the men have a feeling, that are in the infantry, that there is a certain refined distinction which should not be made, but somehow is made, and that distinction is, that it's all right for the air force to bomb cities, it's all right for artillery to tear down buildings and wreck the lives of every inhabitant; but, somehow or other, it's wrong for an infantryman, when he is told to destroy and level a village, to use his mechanical weapons, -- and, after all, you are mechanized, -- to use his weapons for the same purposes. Oh, surely it can be contended that some of the people like to contend, with their refinements, that the infantryman has a better opportunity to see what he is doing. Well, again, here comes the mental processes to work. Here comes your artillery, your mortars coming in on the village, and you go in with your guns a blazing, M-16s or automatic. You don't shoot them by looking through a peep sight, or you didn't. They are used for mass killing, and the philosophy of our war and the philosophy that is taught everybody is fire support and mow them down.”

Morris, also, later encounters the Pentagon Paper and again his learning of them is given in terms of the actual, verbatim articles that he encounters as he tries to sort out his war experience and place it in the context of larger historical events
       Morris did not bring the articles with him the entire first week of his job, however, while, each evening after work, he returned home to the satisfaction and encouragement of his wife. On the first day of the second week, he brought the articles with him and placed them in a drawer of his desk. For the entire week, again, the articles remained unlooked at. Then, on the first day of the third week, he opened the drawer and began looking through the articles.
       The first article he paused on, -- in the paper for June 15, on page 20, -- had a title that drew his interest because it referred to the airwar: “McCone Memo to Top Officials on Effectiveness of Air War.” 
       The memo had been sent on April 2, 1965, upon completion of the first 12 weeks of the Rolling Thunder bombing of North Vietnam, Morris noted. The sender of the memo, John McCone, had at that time been Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The memo had gone to the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, the National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, and the United States Ambassador to South Vietnam, Gen. Maxwell Taylor.
       Morris read several paragraphs in this memo slowly:
       “I have reported that the strikes to date have not caused a change in the North Vietnamese policy of directing Viet Cong insurgency, infiltrating cadres and supplying material,” McCone stated. “If anything, the strikes to date have hardened their attitude.
       “I have now had a change to examine the 12-week program referred to by General Wheeler, and it is my personal opinion that this program is not sufficiently severe and [words unintelligible] the North Vietnamese to [words unintelligible] policy.
       “On the other hand, we must look with care to our position under a program of slowly ascending tempo of air strikes. With the passage of each day and each week, we can expect increasing pressure to stop the bombing. This will come from various elements of the American public, the press, the United Nations and world opinion... Time will run against us in this operation and I think the North Vietnamese are counting on this.
       “Therefore I think what we are doing is starting on a path which involves ground force operations, which, in all probability have limited effectiveness against guerillas, although admittedly will restrain some VC advances. However, we can expect requirements for an ever-increasing commitment of U.S. personnel without materially improving the chances of victory. I support and agree with this decision, but I must point out that in my judgment, forcing submission of the VC can only be brought about by a decision in Hanoi. Since the contemplated actions against the North are modest in scale, they will not impose unacceptable damage on it, nor will they threaten the DRV’s vital interests. Hence, they will not present them with a situation with which they cannot live, though such actions will cause the DVR pain and inconvenience.”
       The conclusion of the memo stated the point quite clearly:
       “Therefore, it is my judgment that if we are to change the mission of the ground forces, we must also change the ground rules of the strikes against North Vietnam. We must hit them harder, more frequently, and inflict greater damage. Instead of avoiding the MIG’s, we must go in and take them out. A bridge here and there will not do the job. We must strike their airfields, their petroleum resources, power stations and their military compounds.”
       Whereas others might have found this information of minor interest, Morris saw in it a great significance that touched on his entire experience as a combat pilot. The warning here that, in order to have any realistic hope of winning the war, the airwar against the North had to be prosecuted more severely (on the level of the World War II air assaults, as Morris understood), had not been heeded. This the former pilot noted with great emphasis in his own mind. The full-out airwar had not been conducted owing to the very influences the memo had mentioned: the press, the United Nations, world opinion, and the American public (including, Morris knew, many members of his own generation).
       In another article, “Vietnam Archive Tells How Johnson Secretly Opened Way to Ground Combat,” by Neil Sheehan, Morris read that, in April 1965, at about the same time as the McCone memo, President Johnson, warned his only options were to increase the airwar, withdraw unilaterally from Vietnam, or commit ground forces, had made a secret decision to order a shift from defense to offense on the part of American troops; he had also ordered that the shift should be as imperceptible as possible to the American public so as not to cause a public outcry. 
       Morris also discovered that, as early as July 1, 1965, -- before he himself or any of his fellow pilots had even entered the field of battle, -- Under Secretary of State George W. Ball, “long known as the lone dissenter on Vietnam,” in a memo to President Johnson, had warned that the Vietnam war could not be won. The best action, Ball had advised, would be for the United States to “cut its losses and leave” as a “wiser and more mature nation.”
       Returning then to the original lead article for the whole series on the Pentagon Papers that he had read in Minnesota, Morris read once more: “The Pentagon study... suggests that the predominant American interest was at first containment of Communism and later the defense of the power, influence, and prestige of the United States, in both stages irrespective of conditions in Vietnam.”
       The crux of the matter, Morris concluded, was that the war had been prosecuted without belief that it would eventually be won, for the entire period that he and his fellow pilots had been in action along the Ho Chi Minh Trail and in Laos. 
       “They never expected to do anything except win for a while in the court of world opinion,” Morris said to himself. “What did guys like Tom Pitt give their lives for then?” 
       He recalled the words of Dylan Erland, whose own father had been a war fatality: “You can see your good soldiers on TV. They were saying the war was a lie, people died for a mistake.”
       The article that had the most effect on Morris, however, was a letter to the editor (attributed to Louis F. Lombardi) in the Times of June 16, which went as follows:
       “If the ‘Pentagon study’ of the Vietnam war is to be believed -- and sadly I think there is more to believe than disbelieve -- it is evident that the American people have been lied to and distrusted by their own leaders and representatives.
       “In the study we have many famous Americans presented to us as planning for the bombing and accepting the resulting killing of human beings in an almost too casual manner. Such a manner of life, of decision-making in an almost amoral manner, does little to differentiate the American policymaker from any of history’s other tyrants.” 
       Turning back to the papers, Morris came upon an article describing the reaction to the printing of the articles of Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, the M.I.T. professor suspected of leaking the information to the press. The article said that Ellsberg had refused to either confirm or deny that he had leaked the articles but had “described the papers as ‘the U.S. equivalent of the Nuremberg war-crimes documents.’”        
       Morris paused at that. “The U.S. equivalent of the Nuremberg war-crimes documents,” he said out loud.

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