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Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) is a campaigns for peace, justice, and the rights of all United States military veterans. It publishes a twice-yearly newsletter The Veteran; this was earlier published more frequently as 1st Casualty (1971–1972) and then as Winter Soldier (1973–1975).

VVAW identifies as anti-war, although not in the pacifistic sense. Membership has varied greatly, from almost 25,000 veterans during the height of the war to fewer than 2,000 since the late 20th century. The VVAW is widely considered to be among the most influential anti-war organizations of the Vietnam era.


  • History 1
    • Founding 1.1
    • Membership size 1.2
  • Notable VVAW-sponsored events 2
    • Operation RAW 2.1
    • Winter Soldier investigation 2.2
    • Dewey Canyon III - Washington, D.C., April 1971 2.3
    • Walter Reed Memorial Service 2.4
    • Operation POW 2.5
    • Statue of Liberty occupations 2.6
  • Kansas City meeting 3
  • Post-Vietnam War activities 4
  • Similarly named but different group 5
  • See also 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • Further reading 8
  • Documentary films 9
  • External links 10



Vietnam War Protesters on Memorial Bridge, Washington, DC, October 1967

Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) began as a placard slogan in the staging area for the April 15, 1967 Spring Mobilization to End the War anti-war demonstration in Washington, DC, in which 400,000 protesters participated.[1] About 20 veterans of the Vietnam War gathered under that impromptu banner, including Jan "Barry" Crumb, a West Point graduate who had served in the war as a radio crewman on a fixed-wing supply aircraft.[1]

Following the conclusion of the march, Crumb and five others got together to form a new anti-war organization of veterans of the unpopular foreign military conflict.[1] Beginning with a desk and a telephone in the office of the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee in

  • VVAW web site
  • Dewey Canyon III Rev. Jackson Day
  • History of the U.S. War in Vietnam By Barry Romo, Pete Zastrow & Joe Miller
  • The Winter Soldier Investigation sponsored by VVAW
  • Winter Soldier at the Internet Movie Database
  • Blood Debt Members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Vietnamese victims come together to assess the legacy of Agent Orange (warning: graphic images - viewer discretion advised). From the Chicago FreeSpeechZone
  • VVAW Coordinator Barry Romo's speech against the Iraq War and cutting of veteran health care funding
  • Lexington Historical Society
  • GI Antiwar Movement films, audio clips, photos and libraries
  • My Lai Peace Park Project
  • Iraq Veterans Against the War
  • Vietnam Vet and VVAW leader Terry DuBose on Rag Radio Interviewed by Thorne Dreyer, June 17, 2011 [55:42]
  • The Rag BlogArticles about VVAW and Winter Soldier at

External links

Documentary films

  • Kerry, John, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The New Soldier. MacMillan Publishing Company: October 1971. ISBN 0-02-073610-X
  • Nicosia, Gerald. Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement. Crown Publishers: 2001. ISBN 0-8129-9103-6
  • Retzer, Joseph David. War and Political Ideology: The Roots of Radicalism Among Vietnam Veterans. Doctoral thesis. Yale University. 1976.
  • W.D. Ehrhart. Passing Time: Memoir of a Vietnam Veteran Against the War. University of Massachusetts Press: 2nd edition, 1995. ISBN 978-0-87023-958-8
  • Fink, Bob. Vietnam, A View from the Walls: History of the Anti-Vietnam War U.S. Protest, ISBN 0-912424-08-7.
  • Cortright, David. Soldiers in Revolt. Haymarket Books: September 2006. ISBN 978-1-931859-27-1.

Further reading

  1. ^ a b c d e Art Goldberg, "Vietnam Vets: The Anti-War Army," Ramparts, vol. 10, no. 1 (July 1971), pg. 14.
  2. ^ a b c Vietnam Veterans Against the War, VVAW: Where We Came From, Who We Are, accessed August 15, 2007.
  3. ^ Gerald Nicosia; Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement; Pages 49-50
  4. ^ Marilyn B. Young, Robert Buzzanco; A Companion to the Vietnam War; Page 407
  5. ^ Andrew E. Hunt; The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Page 57
  6. ^ FBI File 100-HQ-448092 - Section 2, Declassified through FOIA; Page 106.
  7. ^ Christian G. Appy, Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All Sides. New York: Penguin, 2004; pg. 395.
  8. ^ Richard Stacewicz, Winter Soldiers: An Oral History of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Twayne Publishers, 1997; pg. 253.
  9. ^ Spencer C. Tucker, Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War: A Political, Social, and Military History, pg. 789.
  10. ^ James Olson; Dictionary of the Vietnam War; Page 476
  11. ^ Andrew E. Hunt; The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Page 197
  12. ^ The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8 Sept. 1970, page 33
  13. ^ Gerald Nicosia, Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement; Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2004, Page 87, 108-109
  14. ^ Milliarium Zero/Winterfilm Collective; VVAW Historical Archive Docs. Pages 8-10
  15. ^ Nicosia; Home to War; Page 89
  16. ^ Andrew E. Hunt; The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War; New Your University Press, 1999, pg 61
  17. ^ a b Dictionary of the Vietnam War, James Olson, pages 475-476
  18. ^ a b The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990, Marilyn B. Young, pages 257-259
  19. ^ "Vietnam Veteran Ministers Arlington Memorial". Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  20. ^ Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, Gerald Nicosia, page 111
  21. ^ a b c Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, Gerald Nicosia, pages 118-143
  22. ^ Washington Daily News, 22 April 1971, page 1
  23. ^ "C-SPAN Transcript of Kerry Testimony". Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  24. ^ Gerald Nicosia; Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, 2004, Carroll & Graf Publishers; Page 107
  25. ^ John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War; The New Soldier; Pages 28-31
  26. ^ "Vietnam Veteran Ministers Walter Reed Memorial". Retrieved 2007-03-20. 
  27. ^ Unfinished Symphony: Democracy and Dissent - Documentary, 2001
  28. ^ Against the Vietnam War: Writings by Activists, Mary Susannah Robbins, pages 78-90
  29. ^ Lexington Minute-Man Newspaper, 23 May 1991.
  30. ^ New York Times, 27 December 1971, Page 1
  31. ^ The Veteran Magazine, Vol. 29, Number 1, Spring/Summer 1999
  32. ^ New York Sun, 14 April 2004, Page 1 -- Josh Gerstein
  33. ^ "Scott Camil, oral history analysis". Retrieved 2006-03-11. 
  34. ^ a b "How Kerry Quit Veterans Group Amid Dark Plot By Thomas H. Lipscomb". Archived from the original on 2004-03-14. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  35. ^ "Texas Tech University Vietnam Center's 2005 Symposium on the Vietnam War" (PDF). Texas Tech University — The Vietnam Center. Texas Tech University. 2005. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  36. ^ Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, Gerald Nicosia, pages 59, 162-165
  37. ^ Bessel A. Van der Kolk, Alexander C. MacFarlane, Lars Weisæth; Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society; Pages 61-62
  38. ^ Nicosia, Home to War, pp. 490-492
  39. ^ Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement, Gerald Nicosia, pages 490-492
  40. ^ Long Time Passing, Myra MacPherson excerpted in The American Experience in Vietnam, ed. Grace Sevy, pages 64-70
  41. ^ Myths and Realities: A Study of Attitudes Toward Vietnam Era Veterans, Veteran Administration Publications, July 1980
  42. ^ Andrew E. Hunt. The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, New York University Press, 1999, page 188-189
  43. ^ a b Andrew E. Hunt. The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, New York University Press, 1999, page 188
  44. ^ "VVAW Official Website - Court Order". Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  45. ^ Andrew E. Hunt. The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, New York University Press, 1999, page 181-182


See also

VVAW has survived the conflict with RCP and changes after the end of the war. Historian Andrew Hunt said it was “an ineffectual fragment of its former self. ...VVAW never ceased to exist. It split, dwindled, and underwent additional transformation. Yet it did not fold.”[45] it also gained important extensions of medical treatment for veterans, influencing treatment as well of current military members.

  • [43]

Similarly named but different group

Reunions are scheduled every five years for members and alumni; the 1992 event attracted hundreds of veterans to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding. VVAW continues to organize programs and fundraising events in support of veterans, peace, and social justice. ”[42]

Several VVAW members moved on to prominent positions in society. In 1978 Bobby Muller co-founded the Vietnam Veterans of America. John Kerry was elected as Lt. Governor of Massachusetts in 1982, and as a US Senator in 1984. Ron Kovic wrote his autobiography, Born on the Fourth of July. It was adapted as a 1989 movie and won an Academy Award.

"Main stream" veterans groups had tended to be suspicious of Vietnam veterans who protested against the war, regarding them as "crybabies and losers" in general. They particularly thought the VVAW members were unpatriotic and anti-American. Vietnam Veterans of America was not founded until 1978 by VVAW member Robert Muller. In 1990 the American Legion and VVA joined the cause of Vietnam veterans, filing suit against the government for having failed to conduct the study ordered by Congress in 1979.[40][41]

Veterans separately filed suit against the herbicide manufacturers, Dow Chemical and Monsanto, in 1982. Two years later the companies settled the suit for $180 million to compensate what at that time were more than 200,000 claimants.[39]

In 1978 Maude de Victor, a Chicago Veterans Administration caseworker, noticed a pattern in cancers and other illnesses suffered by Vietnam veterans. She linked those illnesses with exposure to herbicides such as Agent Orange, and its dioxin contaminants. VVAW led veterans organizations in the struggle to force the government to test, treat and compensate the victims of those poisons. Congress mandated a study of Agent Orange in 1979.[38]

As early as 1970, VVAW initiated "rap groups" to help veterans readjust: these were venues for veterans to discuss troubling aspects of the war, their disillusionment, and experiences after returning home. They gained the aid of prominent psychiatrists Dr. Robert Jay Lifton and Dr. Chaim F. Shatan to direct their sessions. VVAW's work contributed to "Post-Vietnam Syndrome" being recognized in 1980 as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Such discussion groups are often used in the VVAW "rap group" treatment methods are the basis for treating PTSD today.[36][37]

VVAW members also worked to gain veterans' treatment and benefits for major Vietnam-related health conditions, namely, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Agent Orange.

By 1973, US combat involvement in Vietnam ended. VVAW changed its emphasis to include advocating amnesty for draft resisters and dissenters. President Jimmy Carter eventually granted an amnesty in 1980.

Post-Vietnam War activities

The plan was voted down, although there's a "difference of opinion" as to how close the vote was.[34] It is not known if John Kerry, a 2004 presidential candidate who is Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, attended this meeting.[34][35] Kerry's campaign said he was not there and had already resigned from VVAW.

Camil later said:

During a four-day series of meetings in Kansas City, Missouri on November 12–15, 1971, Scott Camil, a radical VVAW southern coordinator, proposed assassinating the most conservative members of United States Congress, and other powerful opponents of the antiwar movement. According to interviews with VVAW members, Camil suggested "The Phoenix Project," named after the original Phoenix Program, CIA operations during the Vietnam War to assassinate the Viet Cong. Camil's Phoenix Project targeted the Southern senatorial leadership who were backing the war, including John Tower, Strom Thurmond, and John Stennis.

Kansas City meeting

On December 26, 1971, fifteen VVAW activists barricaded and occupied the Statue of Liberty for two days to bring attention to their cause. Simultaneous protests took place at other sites across the country, such as the historic Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia (for 45 minutes) and Travis Air Force Base in California (for 12 hours). VVAW members in California also briefly occupied the South Vietnam Government consulate in San Francisco.[30] In 1976 VVAW members occupied the Statue of Liberty a second time to bring renewed attention to veteran issues.[31][32]

Statue of Liberty occupations

The organizers' request to camp on the historic Lexington, Massachusetts Green was declined by the town. The VVAW and residents who supported them camped there anyway. At 2:30 a.m. on May 30, local and state police awoke and arrested 441 demonstrators for trespassing. They were transported on school buses to spend the rest of the night at the Lexington Public Works Garage. Julian Soshnick, an attorney who represented the Boston Strangler, was among those who volunteered to represent the demonstrators. He worked out a deal with Concord Court Judge John Forte. The protesters later paid a $5 fine each and were released. The mass arrests caused a community backlash and eventually resulted in positive coverage for the VVAW.[27][28][29]

Operation POW, organized by the VVAW in Massachusetts, expressed the imprisonment of Americans by the war years and honor for American POWs held captive by North Vietnam. Over the 1971 Memorial Day weekend, veterans and supporters marched from Concord, Massachusetts to a rally on Boston Common. They invoked the spirit of the American Revolution by spending successive nights at the sites of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill, on Memorial Day a rally held a public reading of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Operation POW

In May 1971, the VVAW and former Army chaplain Reverend Jackson Day conducted a service for veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Patients were brought into the chapel in wheelchairs. The service included time for individual prayers or public confession, and many veterans took the floor to recount things they had done or seen for which they felt guilt or anger. This was the last service performed by Day for nearly two decades.[26]

Walter Reed Memorial Service

Senators Mark Hatfield helped arrange at least $50,000 in fundraising for Dewey Canyon III. The VVAW paid $94,000 to advertise this event in the April 11, 1971 New York Times.[21]

On Friday, April 23, more than 800 veterans individually tossed their medals, ribbons, discharge papers, and other war mementos on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, rejecting the Vietnam War and the significance of those awards. Several hearings in Congress were held that week regarding atrocities committed in Vietnam and the U.S. media's inaccurate coverage of the war. There were also hearings on proposals to end the United States' participation in the war. The vets planted a tree on the mall as part of a ceremony symbolizing the veterans' wish to preserve life and the environment.[25]

On Thursday, April 22, a large group of veterans demonstrated on the steps of the Supreme Court, saying that the Supreme Court should have ruled on the constitutionality of the war. The veterans sang "God Bless America" and 110 were arrested for disturbing the peace, and were later released. John Kerry, as VVAW spokesman, testified against the war for 2 hours in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before a packed room. [23] The veterans lobbied all day on Capitol. A Washington District Court judge dissolved his injunction order, rebuking the Justice Department lawyers for requesting the court order and then not enforcing it. Veterans staged a candlelight march around the White House, while carrying a huge American flag upside down in the historic international signal of distress.[24]

On Wednesday, April 21, more than 50 veterans marched to The Pentagon, attempting to surrender as war criminals. A Pentagon spokesman took their names and turned them away. Veterans continued to meet with and lobby their congressional representatives. Senator Ted Kennedy spent the day speaking with the veterans. The guerrilla theater re-enactments were moved to the steps of the Justice Department. Many veterans were prepared to be arrested for camping on the National Mall, but none were, as park police defied orders to make arrests. Headlines the following day read, "VETS OVERRULE SUPREME COURT."[21][22]

On Tuesday, April 20, 200 veterans listened to hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on proposals to end the war. Other veterans, still angry at the insult to the Gold Star Mothers when they were refused entry to Arlington National Cemetery the previous day, marched back to the front gate. After initial refusal of entry, the veterans were finally allowed in. Veterans performed guerrilla theater on the Capitol steps, re-enacting combat scenes and search and destroy missions from Vietnam. Later that evening, Democratic Senators Claiborne Pell and Philip Hart held a fund-raising party for the veterans. During the party it was announced that Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States Supreme Court had reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the injunction. The veterans were given until 4:30 the following afternoon to break camp and leave the National Mall. This was the fastest reversal of an Appeals Court decision in the Supreme Court's history.[21]

The gate to the cemetery had been closed and locked upon word of their impending arrival; the Gold Star mothers placed the wreaths outside the gate and departed.[18] The march re-formed and continued to the Capitol, with Congressman Pete McCloskey joining the procession en route. McCloskey and fellow Representatives Bella Abzug, Don Edwards, Shirley Chisholm, Edmund Muskie and Ogden Reid addressed the large crowd and expressed support. VVAW members defied a Justice Department-ordered injunction against camping on the Mall and set up an installation. Later that day, the District Court of Appeals lifted the injunction. Some members visited their Congressmen to lobby against the U.S. participation in the war. The VVAW presented Congress with a 16-point suggested resolution for ending the war.[17][20]

Led by Gold Star Mothers (mothers of soldiers killed in war), more than 1,100 veterans marched across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge to the Arlington Cemetery gate, just beneath the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Reverend Jackson H. Day, who had a few days earlier resigned his military chaplainship, conducted a memorial service for their fellows. He said:

This peaceful anti-war protest organized by VVAW was named after two short military invasions of Laos by US and South Vietnamese forces. Dubbed "Operation Dewey Canyon III," it took place in Washington, D.C, April 19-23, 1971. Participants said it was "a limited incursion into the country of Congress." This week of protest events gained much greater media publicity and Vietnam veterans participation than earlier events.[17][18]

Dewey Canyon III - Washington, D.C., April 1971

This event was estimated to have cost the VVAW $50,000–$75,000.[15] Funds were raised by several celebrity peace activists; actress Jane Fonda gained more than $10,000 in donations for this cause from 54 college campuses.[16] Winter Soldier Investigation testimonies were read into the Congressional Record by Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR). In 1972, VVAW continued antiwar protests, and released Winter Soldier, a 16mm black-and-white documentary film showing participants giving testimony at the 1971 hearing, as well as footage of the Dewey Canyon III week of protest events. This film is on limited distribution and is available on DVD.

Veterans applying to participate in the investigation were asked if they had witnessed or participated in any of the following: search and destroy missions, crop destruction, and POW mistreatment.[14]

In January 1971, VVAW sponsored The Winter Soldier Investigation to gather and present testimony from soldiers about war crimes being committed in Southeast Asia; they intended to demonstrate these resulted from American war policies. The event was boycotted by much of the mainstream media, although the Detroit Free Press covered it daily; its journalists began their own investigations to follow the testimony. They found no fraudulent participants or fraudulent testimony.[13]

Winter Soldier investigation

During the Labor Day weekend of September 4–7, 1970, Operation RAW ("Rapid American Withdrawal") took place. It was a three-day protest march from Edmund Muskie, Rep. John Conyers, Paul O'Dwyer, Mark Lane, and Donald Sutherland. Scheduled speakers were John Kerry, Joe Kennedy, Rev. James Bevel, Mark Lane, Jane Fonda, and Sutherland. Congressman Allard Lowenstein, Mike Lerner, and Army First Lt. Louis Font also spoke.[12]

Operation RAW

Notable VVAW-sponsored events

Historian [11]

[10], and universal discharge with benefits for all Vietnam veterans.deserters and draft resisters With internal struggles still threatening the group, 2,000 members demonstrated in Washington DC in July 1974, demanding universal amnesty for [9] By 1972, negotiations at the

Higher estimates exist, including a claim of 20,000 members for 1971.[7] The organization has claimed a peak membership of over 30,000.[2] Counting non-veteran supporters, VVAW had "roughly 50,000" members.[8]

[1] that year said VVAW had at that time approximately 11,000 members and employed 26 regional coordinators.Ramparts, An article in [6] An

Membership passed 8,500 by January 1971, and thousands more flocked to the organization after Playboy Magazine donated a full-page VVAW ad in its February edition.[5] The national televised coverage of VVAW's week-long April 1971 protest in Washington, DC, and smaller protests in subsequent months brought attention.

The fluctuating membership size has had varied estimates. The organization remained small until late 1969 when it gained several hundred new members.[3] With the Nixon administration's decision to invade Cambodia and the Kent State shootings in 1970, VVAW's visibility increased, and they attracted new members, increasing from 1,500 to almost 5,000.[4]

Membership size

According to VVAW, its founders organized discussions for veterans in 1970. This was a predecessor to readjustment counselling at modern Vet Centers. The group helped draft legislation for education and job programs, and assisted veterans with post-war health care through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital system, including assisting victims of Agent Orange and other chemical agents. The VVAW advocated amnesty for war resisters.[2]

The VVAW's website summarizes its history, in part indicating that:


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