[sixties-l] Re: GI movement

From: Ron Jacobs (rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 13:17:10 CUT

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            As an addendum to the comments below (the commnets being somewhat pared
    for brevity's sake):
            My dad was an officer in the Air Force Security Service (worked
    through/with NSA his whole career)and went to DaNang in spring of 1969
    after six months of schooling in Norfolk, VA at the Air War College and
    Armed Forces Staff Institute. He was not in the jungle and his job seems
    to have been something to do with gathering intelligence which the military
    used to plan bombing runs. Anyhow, that's not the point I wanted to make
    but serves as background.
    Recently, he and I were conversing about his military life and he admitted
    to me that by the time he went to Nam he thought the US should have been
    out of there, primarily because the GIs didn't want to fight and were
    threatening the entire military structure due to their lack of will which
    was expressed through politcs, insubordination and drug use/abuse. He also
    hinted that many bomber pilots he knew (being an officer) were not happy
    with what they were doing but unwilling to stop doing it. Some hoped that
    Nixon would step up the bombing and "win the goddam war" and others
    honestly had moral qualms about the havoc they were raining on the people
    of Vietnam.
    Meanwhile, I was doing what I could as a 14 year-old high school student in
    my suburban town of Laurel, MD (where Wallace was shot a few years later)
    to oppose the war--vigils during the moratoriums, etc. When dad returned
    in Feb. 1970 it was tough. We left for Frankfurt am Main, Germany in March
    1970 a few days after the TDA demos in DC opposing the Chicago 7 verdict.
    I remember hearing the Beatles' song "Let It Be" in the back of the family
    station wagon as we headed up the interstate to our Military Air Command
    flight from Dover AFB. Once in Germany I became involved in a number of
    antiwar/leftist endeavors.
    Which brings me to the GI movement: many of the GIs who I hung out with in
    Germany were finishing out their two year tours there after a year in Nam.
    Most of them were aginst the war and quite a few were politically active.
    I helped them distribute their paper called FTA-Heidelberg and went to a
    couple coffehouses they sponsored one summer near the Goethe University in
    west Frankfurt. The first Black Panther I ever met was a GI who gave me a
    copy of the Panther paper and Mao's Red Book and then engaged me in an
    intense political conversation while German hippies smoked hash a few feet
    away. I was 15 years old and he was one of the first grown men who treated
    my ideas as if they mattered--this made an impression on me. I continued to
    distribute the paper, and helped sell the local Black Panther paper called
    Voice of the Lumpen (the Panthers there were aligned with Cleaver in
    Algeria although the GI I had met earlier was aligned with Huey and the
    Oakland wing)) at the high school on base along with other
    political/countercultural papers we wrote ourselves. We also organized a
    group to attend Fania Davis' speech during her tour raising funds to free
    her sister Angela...The point of this post is that there was a lot of
    political activity on base--both among GIs and dependents. In 1972, we
    campaigned heavily for McGovern and received a mostly warm reception as we
    handed out his literature and buttons outside the Post Exchange.
    I continued to work with GIs in Maryland in 1974-75 with the VVAW which by
    that time had undergone a split precipitated by the Revolutionary Union
    (soon to be RCP) and was always impressed by their commitment and
    willingness to do the shitwork as well as the glory jobs and their general
    lack of arrogance.

    -ron jacobs

    At 01:56 AM 06/22/2000 -0700, you wrote:
    >Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
    >I believe an increasing number of soldiers in the field began to write
    >home to their parents and loved ones that they didn't know what they
    >were doing fighting in Vietnam and were concerned that they were
    >sacrificing their futures for nothing.
    >JW reply:
    >I can vouch for that. I was there from '65 to '67 and by the time I
    >left a lot of people were questioning the war. I spent the next three
    >years stationed in Japan where the questions became more frequent and
    >the reports from Vietnam began showing an increase in morale problems.
    >By 1970 there was considerable anti-war activity in the armed forces,
    >including the bases in Japan.
    >This attitude towards the war and the government in general was not
    >confined to first term enlisted. I knew field grade officers who were
    >fed up as well as career enlisted.
    >Jerry West
    >On line news from Nootka Sound & Canada's West Coast
    >An independent, progressive regional publication

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