AMERICAN MEDIA, ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATION AND THE U.S. LOSES ITS WILL TO FIGHT IN VIETNAM

AMERICANS TURN AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR

On February 27, 1968, CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite said, "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience in of Vietnam will end in a stalemate." Off camera he said, "What the hell is going on. It thought we were winning the war!" President Lyndon Johnson said, "If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost Mr. Average Citizen." On March 31, Johnson announced he would not seek reelection. He was repalced Richard Nixon who did seek the negotiating table. Gen. Westmoreland’s request for 200,000 more soldiers was turned down.

According to Lonely Planet: "The military had long been boasting that victory was just a matter for time. Watching the killing and chaos in Saigon beamed into their living rooms, many Americans stopped believing the hype. While US generals were proclaiming a great victory, public tolerance of the war and its casualties reached breaking point. For the VC the Tet Offensive ultimately proved a success: it made the cost of fighting the war unbearable for the Americans. Simultaneously, stories began leaking out of Vietnam about atrocities and massacres carried out against unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including the infamous My Lai Massacre. This helped turn the tide and a coalition of the concerned emerged that threatened the establishment. Antiwar demonstrations rocked American university campuses and spilled onto the streets. [Source: Lonely Planet]

Robert K. Brigham wrote in Washington Post, "It was the Foreign Relations Committee, under Sen. J. William Fulbright (D-Ark.), that propelled the steady decline in public support for the Vietnam War when it began public hearings to investigate the Johnson administration's handling of that conflict in February 1966. The country was spending $2 billion a month on the war and the casualties were rising dramatically. With little to show for this high cost in blood and treasure, Americans began to turn against the war. Mounting frustration with White House policies in Vietnam led to more congressional hearings and eventually to the War Powers Act, passed in 1973, which required the president to inform Congress within 48 hours of any deployment of U.S. military forces abroad and to withdraw them within 60 days in the absence of further congressional endorsement. [Source: Robert K. Brigham, Washington Post, January 14, 2007]

Media and Images of the War

Vietnam brought war to television. At the time of the World War II television had been invented but not many people had them. At the time of the Korean War in the early 1950s, more people had television sets but news coverage was in its infancy and the media was more obliging to the U.S. government. During the Vietnam War, footage from the war was on television every night. There were nightly body counts and graphic images of fighting, death and destruction.

Michael Herr wrote in "Dispatches": "I keep thinking about all the kids who got wiped out by seventeen years of war movies before coming to Vietnam to get wiped out for good. You don’t know what a media freak is until you’ve seen the way a few of those grunts would run around during a fight when they knew that there was a television crew nearby; they were actually making war movies in their heads, doing little guts-and-glory Leatherneck tap dances under fire, getting their pimples shot off for the networks. They were insane, but the war hadn’t done that to them. Most combat troops stopped thinking of the war as an adventure after their first few firefights, but there were always the ones who couldn’t let that go, these few who were up there doing numbers for the cameras… We’d all seen too many movies, stayed too long in Television City, years of media glut had made certain connections difficult." [Source: Michael Herr, "Dispatches"(1977)]

Journalists and the Vietnam War

The U.S. government allowed jounalists to do pretty much what they pleased and go where they wanted during the Vietnam War. One photographer described the Vietnam War as "a loose scene. Anyone with a plane ticket could go." It was the "the first and last war covered without the accustomed censorship." An AP reporter said, "We we were living this free-wheeling, unstructured life with so much freedom and go-to-hell attitude. It was a very good lifestyle despite the war. It was exotic, sensual."

These journalists were later blamed for being insufficiently patriotic. Initially they were supportive and relatively uncritical of the U.S. government and their position on the war but a lot of that changed after the Tet offensive, which shattered claims that the war was going well and the Americans were winning.

Between 1955 and 1975, 70 journalists and their staff were killed in Vietnam. By contrast 57 journalists and 20 media assistants were killed during the civil war in Algeria from 1993 to 1996, 49 journalists were killed in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995 and 66 journalist had been killed in Iraq since the United States invaded in March 2003 and August 2005.

The unofficial list kept by Associated Press includes 34 lost in Cambodia, 33 in Vietnam and four in Laos. Between 1945 and 1975, 135 news photographers died or disappeared in Vietnam. Their work is recorded in the book Requiem (Random House).

Robert Stone wrote in the New York Times, "By the ’60s America was changing and with it the values of college-trained journalists. The brass encountered a new generation of newspapermen touched by what some among the educated youth saw as a kind of reformed consciousness taking hold on American campuses. The journalist had become a more glamorous figure, driven by idealism, legitimized personal ambition and a new level of skepticism toward the official story. Youthful journalists no longer deferred to military authority, and some were driven to compete with their young contemporaries in the newly minted, increasingly blue-collar junior officer corps. These journalists often saw themselves as serving a higher truth than patriotism but also as performing a greater service to the public and the country than any number of generals. Reporters had been shocked to discover that one important weapon of military public relations is the lie. Some officers are good at it, others aren’t. In the climate of the ’60s dedicated journalists found collaborators within the military moved by the same impulses and ready to provide information that fueled their criticism. But at the outset, the American command, bless its homicidal innocence, believed it had nothing to hide. [Source: Robert Stone, New York Times, September 12, 2008]

"This was the first foreign war the U.S. ever fought where the press challenged government thinking, challenged the decisions of generals, challenged the political decisions the war was based on," former Associated Press and CNN correspondent Peter Arnett, told Associated Press. "No longer will you ever be able to do wars like Vietnam," said Bob Carroll, a former United Press International photographer. "What did the military learn about press access from Vietnam? Don't give it to them." [Source: Ben Stocking and Thomas Maresca, Associated Press, April 30, 2010 |:|]

Ben Stocking and Thomas Maresca of Associated Press wrote: " Matt Franjola admitted he used to bribe the U.S. military signal operators in Khe Sanh, the site of a famous battle near the demilitarized zone in central Vietnam, with fresh loaves of French bread so they would relay his stories back to the U.S. ahead of competing news services. He worked for UPI at the time, and later switched to the AP. "I cheated," Franjola said. "That's what happens when you know your way around." It's strange to be able to talk about a war and talk about all the benefits that came from it," said Jacques Leslie, who covered the war for the Los Angeles Times. "But for me it was a positive experience. I found out I could do things I had no idea I could do, and I'm grateful for the experience." |:|

Five O’Clock Follies

At the "5 o’clock follies" press briefings in Saigon army officials report that "92 percent of that province was pacified" without stating what pacification meant. Michael Herr wrote in "Dispatches", "If dead ground could come back and haunt you the way dead people do, they’d have been able to mark my map CURRENT and burn the ones they’d been using since ‘64, but count on it, nothing like that was going to happen. It was late ‘67 now, even the most detailed maps didn’t reveal much anymore; reading them was like trying to read the faces of the Vietnamese, and that was like trying to read the wind. We knew that the uses of most information were flexible, different pieces of ground told different stories to different people. We also knew that for years now there had been no country here but the war. [Source: Michael Herr, "Dispatches", Knopf, 1977 :|:]

"The Mission was always telling us about VC units being engaged and wiped out and then reappearing a month later in full strength, there was nothing very spooky about that, but when we went up against his terrain we usually took it definitively, and even if we didn’t keep it you could always see that we’d at least been there. At the end of my first week in-country I met an information officer in the headquarters of the 25th Division at Cu Chi who showed me on his map and then from his chopper what they’d done to the Ho Bo Woods, the vanished Ho Bo Woods, taken off by giant Rome plows and chemicals and long, slow fire, wasting hundreds of acres of cultivated plantation and wild forest alike, "denying the enemy valuable resources and cover." :|:

"It had been part of his fob for nearly a year now to tell people about that operation; correspondents, touring congressmen, movie stars, corporation presidents, staff officers from half the armies in the world, and he still couldn’t get over it. It seemed to be keeping him young, his enthusiasm made you feel that even the letters he wrote home to his wife were full of it, it really showed what you could do if you had the know-how and the hardware. And if in the months following that operation incidences of enemy activity in the larger area of War Zone C had increased "significantly," and American losses had doubled and then doubled again, none of it was happening in any damn Ho Bo Woods, you’d better believe it." :|:

Ace Reporters of the Vietnam War

Among those who made a name for themselves in Vietnam were Dutch photojournalist Hugh Van Es; pioneering female reporter Kate Webb; legendary Pulitzer Prize winner David Halberstam; AP Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Horst Faas; and former AP Saigon bureau chief George Esper, one of the few journalists who refused to leave Saigon after it fell to the communists. Larry Burrow took shocking color photographs of harassed Vietnamese villagers and wounded American Gis for Life.

Famous reporters who covered the war in Vietnam included CBS's Dan Rather, Newsweek's Francois Sully (a former French paratrooper), Neil Sheehan of UPI, Charles Mohr of Time magazine, Nick Turner of Reuters, Stanley Karnow for Time and Horst Faas and Malcolm Browne for Associated Press. David Halberstam wrote for the New York Times and published books like "The Best and the Brightest."

Many of these reporters received hot tips from Pham Xuan, a fixture of the South Vietnamese military and journalism scene, who turned to be a spy and a colonel in the North Vietnamese army (See Spies). Military advisor, Col. John Paul Vann, leaked some of his gloomy reports of the war to the press after his reports were kept out of the hands of important decision makers in the U.S. government by the U.S. embassy.

Michael Herr wrote a series for Esquire magazine that highlighted the surreal side of the war and the contradictions between what was reported at the "5 o’clock follies" press briefings in Saigon and the horrors that were occuring in the field. Herr helped concieve the film Apocalypse Now and contributed to the film Full Metal Jacket . His pieces in Esquire were collected in the book "Dispatches."

Book: Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1969 and 1969-1975 (Library of America)

Peter Arnett

Peter Arnett covered Vietnam from 1962 to 1970, mostly for Associated Press. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 and made a name for himself by reporting the Laos uprising after he swam across the Mekong River with the story "clenched between his teeth." He returned to Saigon before the city fell in 1975. When a North Vietnamese officer arrived at the AP offices in Saigon Arnett offered him a cookie and a Coke and did an interview with him, transmitting the last dispatch from Vietnam before the wires were cut.

In his book Once Upon a Distant War , William Prochnau described a party in which Arnett "emerged through an archway splashed with the pink of cascading coral vine, wearing a pretty young Vietnamese woman on his arm and a crocked grin on his bulldog face." Sheehan "looked downright seedy...but also wore exotica on his arm, a stunning Saigonnaise whose every curve seemed to have been sewn tightly into an expensive Parisian dress."

Arnett came to Vietnam as a young reporter and grew up covering battles from the trenches where correspondents were permitted to go without restrictions. Like others he carried his war experience into other conflicts, including Iraq and Afghanistan but said he was never again given such freedom to tell the stories from the front lines as he was in Vietnam. Arnett later reported from a Baghdad hotel during the Persian Gulf War for CNN and was fired from CNN in 1998 for a false report about Americans using chemical weapons in Laos in 1970.

Malcolm Browne

AP's Malcolm Browne photographed South Vietnamese planes taking off with U.S. pilots (the film was destroyed by American MPs) and made the famous photograph of a Buddhist monk burning himself to death, which won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1964. Brown always wore red socks and carried a gold bracelet in his briefcase to barter for his life. Ula Ilnytzky of Associated Press wrote: "By his own account, Malcolm Browne survived being shot down three times in combat aircraft, was expelled from half a dozen countries and was put on a "death list" in Saigon. The burning monk photo became one of the first iconic news photos of the Vietnam War. "Malcolm Browne was a precise and determined journalist who helped set the standard for rigorous reporting in the early days of the Vietnam War," said Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor and senior vice president. "He was also a genuinely decent and classy man." [Source: Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press, August 28, 2012 \\\\]

Ula Ilnytzky of Associated Press wrote: "Malcolm Wilde Browne was born in New York on April 17, 1931. He graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania with a degree in chemistry. Working in a lab when drafted in 1956, he was sent to Korea as a tank driver, but by chance got a job writing for a military newspaper, and from that came a decision to trade science for a career in journalism. He worked first for the Middletown Daily Record in New York, where he worked alongside Hunter S. Thompson, author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Browne then worked briefly for International News Service and United Press, the forerunner of United Press International, before joining the AP in 1960. A year later, the AP sent him from Baltimore to Saigon to head its expanding bureau. \\\\

"There, he became a charter member of a small group of reporters covering South Vietnam's U.S.-backed military struggle against the Viet Cong, a home-grown communist insurgency. Within the year he was joined in Saigon by photographer Horst Faas and reporter Peter Arnett. By 1966, all three members of what a competitor called the AP's "human wave" had earned Pulitzer Prizes — one of journalism's highest honors — for Vietnam coverage. \\\\

"Writing about official corruption and military incompetence, the group — which also included the Times' Halberstam, Neil Sheehan of UPI, Charles Mohr of Time magazine, Nick Turner of Reuters and others — were accused by critics in Vietnam and Washington of aiding the communist cause. At one news briefing, Browne's persistent questions prompted an exasperated U.S. officer to ask, "Browne, why don't you get on the team?" Browne, like some of his peers, initially saw the U.S. commitment to helping the beleaguered Saigon government as a reasonable idea. In his 1993 memoir, Muddy Boots and Red Socks, Browne said he "did not go to Vietnam harboring any opposition to America's role in the Vietnamese civil war" but became disillusioned by the Kennedy administration's secretive "shadow war" concealing the extent of U.S. involvement. \\\

"Amid the furor over tendentious coverage, some reporters claimed to have received death threats, and Browne said his name was among those on a list of "supposed enemies of (South Vietnam) who had to be eliminated." In the 1998 interview, he said that he "never took that seriously" but that when South Vietnam government agents tried to arrest his wife, who had angered officials by quitting her information ministry job, Browne stared them down by standing in his doorway brandishing a souvenir submachine gun. \\\

"Tall, lanky and blond, Browne was a cerebral and eccentric character with a penchant for red socks — they were easy to match, he explained — and an acerbic wit befitting his grandfather's cousin, Oscar Wilde. He ridiculed the word "media," for example, as "that dreadful Latin plural our detractors use when they really mean "'scum.'"Overall, associates saw him as complex, rather mysterious, and above all, independent. "Mal Browne was a loner; he worked alone, did not share his sources and didn't often mix socially with the press group," recalled Faas, who died this year. "And stubborn — he wouldn't compromise on a story just to please his editors or anyone else." \\\\

"Browne wrote a 1965 book, The New Face of War, and a manual for new reporters in Vietnam. Among its kernels of advice: Have a sturdy pair of boots, watch out for police spies who eavesdrop on reporters' bar conversations, and "if you're crawling through grass with the troops and you hear gunfire, don't stick your head up to see where it's coming from, as you will be the next target." South Vietnamese officials censored early news reports but to mixed effects. At least once, Browne sent a story to the AP by surreptitiously taping a handwritten note over an innocuous photo being transmitted to Tokyo. \\\\

"By 1965, impressed by how television appeared to be dominating the public discourse, the reporter who had never owned a TV set left the AP to join ABC News in Vietnam. Browne quit ABC after a year over management questions. After a venture into magazine writing, Browne joined The New York Times in 1968. He worked in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia, left again to edit a science magazine, and returned to the Times in 1985, mainly as a science writer. He also covered the 1991 Gulf War, again clashing with U.S. officials over censorship issues. \\\

Eddie Adams

In 1968, during the Tet offensive, AP photographer Eddies Adams snapped one most riveting images of the Vietnam War: a black-and-white image of the exact moment that Brig. Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, then serving as the national police chief of South Vietnam, fired a bullet at the head of a Viet Cong prisoner standing an arm's length away on a Saigon boulevard. The photograph appeared in newspapers all over the world, fueling the antiwar movement in the U.S. Loan later ended up in the United States and opened a pizza parlor in Dale City, Virginia. Adams won a Pulitzer prize. [Source: Andy Grundberg, New York Times, September 20, 2004 **]

Andy Grundberg wrote in the New York Times: "Although there was little doubt that the captive was indeed a Viet Cong infiltrator, his seemingly impromptu execution shocked millions around the world when the photograph was first published and it galvanized a growing antiwar sentiment in the United States. Mr. Adams took the image during the Tet offensive, when the Viet Cong began attacks within Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. The picture received the Pulitzer Prize for breaking-news photography in 1969. **

"Together with Nick Ut's 1972 image of a naked girl fleeing her napalmed village and Ronald L. Haeberle's color pictures documenting the 1968 My Lai massacre (which were first published in Life in 1969), Mr. Adams' photograph reinforced a widespread belief that the South Vietnamese and American military were doing more harm than good in trying to win the war against an indigenous insurgency and the North Vietnamese army that sponsored it. This interpretation long dismayed Mr. Adams, who accepted Brig. Gen. Loan's contention that the man he shot had just murdered a friend of his, a South Vietnamese army colonel, as well as the colonel's wife and six children. "How do you know you wouldn't have pulled the trigger yourself?" Adams would later write in a commentary on the image. **

"Like other combat photographers of the time, including Larry Burrows, David Douglas Duncan, Henri Huet and David Hume Kennerly, Mr. Adams devoted most of his efforts to sympathetically depicting the pain and suffering of American and allied ground troops, just as W. Eugene Smith had done earlier. As a military veteran, he sought to portray the Vietnam experience from the viewpoint of the grunt, or platoon solider. But none of his war images achieved the renown of the execution scene. **

Edward Adams was born on June 12, 1933, in New Kensington, Pa., the son of Edward and Adelaide Adams. While in high school in New Kensington he joined the photography staff of the school newspaper, and after graduation he enlisted in the Marines and served for three years as a combat photographer in Korea. He later worked at The Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia from 1958 to 1962, and then joined The A.P. He worked for Time from 1972 to 1976, but returned to The A.P. as a special correspondent. Kennerly said that Mr. Adams's picture of the execution is "one of about five great photographs of the 20th century that really changed history.'' "I always tell photographers that you never know who is looking at your pictures or how your pictures are going to affect other people's lives," Mr. Adams later observed. "I wasn't out to save the world. I was out to get a story." **

Photograph of Napalm Girl

One of the most riveting photographs taken during the war shows a screaming nine-year-old girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, running naked down a road, her clothes burned off her body and her body burned from "friendly fire" napalm dropped on her village near Saigon by a South Vietnamese plane on June 8, 1972. He face expresses her pain and suffering. Here arms are extended out in helplessness. She had flung off her clothes after the napalm melted through them and was burning her skin. "Too hot! Too hot!" she was shouting in Vietnamese when her picture was snapped. Running down the road with her are four other children. Some credit the photograph for changing the course of the war. Today, some have argued that it has become so famous that it has become an “icon felt as a powerful aesthetic object but disconnected from the history.”

The photograph won Associated Press photographer, Nick Ut, a Pulitzer prize as well as some international awards. Kim Phu lost two brothers in the attack and received third degree burns or worse over 30 percent of here body. Ut took her to the hospital, where she underwent 17 operation and spent 14 months recovering her burns. The extensive burns on her back and arms left her without sweat glands.

After the war Kim Phu was recruited by the communists for anti-American propaganda. She studied at the University of Havana in Cuba, and after honeymooning with her husband in Moscow, the couple defected in Newfoundland on the trip back to Cuba. She complained that the Communist saw "me as a symbol for the world. I don't enjoy it. I didn't have freedom and I always lived under control and I [was not] too happy about that."

In November 1997, Phan Thi Kim Phuc was named a UNESCO goodwill embassador. She now lives in Toronto, Canada, with her North Vietnamese husband and child. Scared for life and haunted still by nightmares from the event, she told Reuters in 1995, "Even when I see the picture, I can't imagine why they did it to children, to women, to innocent people—they didn't do anything. "the bombs were dropped on a temple in the middle of her village Trang Bang, near Saigon. "I saw the bombs drop," she recalled. "I saw them explode and burn everywhere. I remember at that moment my clothes were burning. I was very, very hot."

Book: The Gilr in the Picture: The Story of Kim Phuc and the Photograph That Changed the Course of the Vietnam War by Denise Ching (Viking, 2000)

Story Behind the Napalm Girl Photo

Margie Mason wrote in Associated Press "It was June 8, 1972, when Phuc heard the soldier's scream: "We have to run out of this place! They will bomb here, and we will be dead!" Seconds later, she saw the tails of yellow and purple smoke bombs curling around the Cao Dai temple where her family had sheltered for three days, as north and south Vietnamese forces fought for control of their village. The little girl heard a roar overhead and twisted her neck to look up. As the South Vietnamese Skyraider plane grew fatter and louder, it swooped down toward her, dropping canisters like tumbling eggs flipping end over end. "Ba-boom! Ba-boom!" [Source: Margie Mason, Associated Press , June 1, 2012 <<<]

"The ground rocked. Then the heat of a hundred furnaces exploded as orange flames spit in all directions. Fire danced up Phuc's left arm. The threads of her cotton clothes evaporated on contact. Trees became angry torches. Searing pain bit through skin and muscle. "I will be ugly, and I'm not normal anymore," she thought, as her right hand brushed furiously across her blistering arm. "People will see me in a different way." In shock, she sprinted down Highway 1 behind her older brother. She didn't see the foreign journalists gathered as she ran toward them, screaming. Then, she lost consciousness. <<<

"Ut, the 21-year-old Vietnamese photographer who took the picture, drove Phuc to a small hospital. There, he was told the child was too far gone to help. But he flashed his American press badge, demanded that doctors treat the girl and left assured that she would not be forgotten. I cried when I saw her running," said Ut, whose older brother was killed on assignment with the AP in the southern Mekong Delta. "If I don't help her — if something happened and she died — I think I'd kill myself after that." <<<

"Back at the office in what was then U.S.-backed Saigon, he developed his film. When the image of the naked little girl emerged, everyone feared it would be rejected because of the news agency's strict policy against nudity. But veteran Vietnam photo editor Horst Faas took one look and knew it was a shot made to break the rules. He argued the photo's news value far outweighed any other concerns, and he won. <<<

"A couple of days after the image shocked the world, another journalist found out the little girl had somehow survived the attack. Christopher Wain, a correspondent for the British Independent Television Network who had given Phuc water from his canteen and drizzled it down her burning back at the scene, fought to have her transferred to the American-run Barsky unit. It was the only facility in Saigon equipped to deal with her severe injuries. <<<

"I had no idea where I was or what happened to me," she said. "I woke up and I was in the hospital with so much pain, and then the nurses were around me. I woke up with a terrible fear." "Every morning at 8 o'clock, the nurses put me in the burn bath to cut all my dead skin off," she said. "I just cried and when I could not stand it any longer, I just passed out." After multiple skin grafts and surgeries, Phuc was finally allowed to leave, 13 months after the bombing. She had seen Ut's photo, which by then had won the Pulitzer Prize, but she was still unaware of its reach and power. <<<

Napalm Girl Grows Up After the Vietnam War

Margie Mason wrote in Associated Press "For a while, life did go somewhat back to normal. The photo was famous, but Phuc largely remained unknown except to those living in her tiny village near the Cambodian border. Ut and a few other journalists sometimes visited her, but that stopped after northern communist forces seized control of South Vietnam on April 30, 1975, ending the war. Life under the new regime became tough. Medical treatment and painkillers were expensive and hard to find for the teenager, who still suffered extreme headaches and pain. She worked hard and was accepted into medical school to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. But all that ended once the new communist leaders realized the propaganda value of the 'napalm girl' in the photo. [Source: Margie Mason, Associated Press , June 1, 2012 <<<]

"She was forced to quit college and return to her home province, where she was trotted out to meet foreign journalists. The visits were monitored and controlled, her words scripted. She smiled and played her role, but the rage inside began to build and consume her. "I wanted to escape that picture," she said. "I got burned by napalm, and I became a victim of war ... but growing up then, I became another kind of victim." She turned to Cao Dai, her Vietnamese religion, for answers. But they didn't come. "My heart was exactly like a black coffee cup," she said. "I wished I died in that attack with my cousin, with my south Vietnamese soldiers. I wish I died at that time so I won't suffer like that anymore ... it was so hard for me to carry all that burden with that hatred, with that anger and bitterness." <<<

"One day, while visiting a library, Phuc found a Bible. For the first time, she started believing her life had a plan. Then suddenly, once again, the photo that had given her unwanted fame brought opportunity. She traveled to West Germany in 1982 for medical care with the help of a foreign journalist. Later, Vietnam's prime minister, also touched by her story, made arrangements for her to study in Cuba.She was finally free from the minders and reporters hounding her at home, but her life was far from normal. Ut, then working at the AP in Los Angeles, traveled to meet her in 1989, but they never had a moment alone. There was no way for him to know she desperately wanted his help again."I knew in my dream that one day Uncle Ut could help me to have freedom," said Phuc, referring to him by an affectionate Vietnamese term. "But I was in Cuba. I was really disappointed because I couldn't contact with him. I couldn't do anything." <<<

"While at school, Phuc met a young Vietnamese man. She had never believed anyone would ever want her because of the ugly patchwork of scars that banded across her back and pitted her arm, but Bui Huy Toan seemed to love her more because of them. The two decided to marry in 1992 and honeymoon in Moscow. On the flight back to Cuba, the newlyweds defected during a refueling stop in Canada. She was free. <<<

"Phuc contacted Ut to share the news, and he encouraged her to tell her story to the world. But she was done giving interviews and posing for photos."I have a husband and a new life and want to be normal like everyone else," she said. The media eventually found Phuc living near Toronto, and she decided she needed to take control of her story. A book was written in 1999 and a documentary came out, at last the way she wanted it told. She was asked to become a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to help victims of war. She and Ut have since reunited many times to tell their story, even traveling to London to meet the Queen. <<<

"Today, I'm so happy I helped Kim," said Ut, who still works for AP and recently returned to Trang Bang village. "I call her my daughter." After four decades, Phuc, now a mother of two sons, can finally look at the picture of herself running naked and understand why it remains so powerful. It had saved her, tested her and ultimately freed her. "Most of the people, they know my picture but there's very few that know about my life," she said. "I'm so thankful that ... I can accept the picture as a powerful gift. Then it is my choice. Then I can work with it for peace." <<<

Credibility Gap and the Vietnam War

American lost faith in their government as its leaders told them that the United States was winning the war while they watched GIs dying on television. Johnson spoke of "light at the end of the tunnel" and constantly told the American public—as did his administration and commanders—that things were going well and that the Americans were sure to prevail as the U.S. were killing the enemy at a rate of 10 to 1 compared to its own death toll. Gen. Westmoreland said: "We have our opponents almost on the ropes. This discrepancy between these words and the reality on the ground became known as the Credibility Gap.

Describing an incident in the fall of 1963, Halberstam wrote in Newsweek, "tension between the military and journalists were growing sharply. The army was announcing that its winning the embassy said that we're winning. But if you went down into the delta, you could see the war wasn't even being fought." On another occasion Halberstam wrote nearly all the big brass generals were brought into a briefing. "It was a deliberate attempt to intimidate us...All that old World War II stuff—everybody on the same team—ended in that room."

The credibility gap became a canyon when the Pentagon Papers, which outlined how the president and the military systematically lied to the American people and Congress, were printed in the New York Times in June 1971. The papers were supplied by Daniel Ellsberg, the former Deputy Defense Secretary. The U.S. Justice Department tried to stop their publication on the grounds of national security. The court ruled that freedom of press guarantees covered the publication of the papers.

Protests In America Against the War

On November 2, 1965 a Quaker burned himself to death to protest the war 40 feet from McNamara's window at the Pentagon. McNamara said he was disturbed by the incident and Jackie Kennedy "beat on my chest, demanding that I 'do something to stop the slaughter." Not long after wards a man spat on McNamara at the Seattle calling him a "Murderer!" and later came to his table at a restaurants and screamed, "Baby burner!" Aft the incident McNamara's wife and one of his son's developed ulcers.

Demonstrators in 1966 in Berkeley chanted "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh" and "Hey, hey LBJ how many people did you kill today?" On Saturday, October 21 1967, 200,000 antiwar protesters converged on the Pentagon and tried to shut down the Defense Department. Afterwards McNamara said, "had the protestors been more Gandhi-like they could have shut us down."

Anti-war movement gained momentum after Tet offensive In February 1968. The demonstration became violent at the Chicago Democratic Convention in the summer of 1968. There were even demonstration staged by war veterans. At the second Vietnam moratorium in November 1969, 250,000 protesters marched peacefully on Washington demanding an end to the war. On May 4, 1970, four students were shot dead at Kent State by Ohio National Guardsmen. They were protesting the bombing of Cambodia.

Jane Fonda in Hanoi

Jane Fonda visited Hanoi in July 1972 and reported that American POWs were being treated well even though many had been tortured and deprived of food. She donned a North Vietnamese helmet, wore a traditional Vietnamese ao ba ba outfit, posed behind an anti-aircraft gun with a North Vietnamese soldiers and gave speeches on Radio Hanoi. During the war, it was not illegal for Americans to travel to North Vietnam.

After criticising the administration of then president Richard Nixon for escalating the air campaign against North Vietnam, Fonda received an invitation to visit Hanoi in May 1972. It came from the Vietnamese Committee for Solidarity with the American People, a group that invited several hundred US activists to visit during the war. Few North Vietnamese at the time had seen a Jane Fonda movie. [Source: Kazuo Nagata, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 15, 2013]

At here own request Fonda made at least 10 broadcasts on Radio Hanoi in which she spoke to U.S. pilots and denounced the bombing of North Vietnam In her speech. In one speech Fonda said: "After 4,000 years of struggling again nature and foreign invaders—and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism—I don’t think the people in Vietnam are about to compromise in any way shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh."

Tran Minh Quoc, a former cameraman for the state broadcaster, told the Yomiuri Shimbun he remembers hunkering in the shelter with Fonda when he served as her interpreter during her June 1972 visit to Hanoi. He said Fonda showed no signs of fear, grabbing her camera and heading above ground as soon as the sirens stopped. But he also recalls her emotional side, especially when she burst into tears at seeing schoolchildren wearing straw hoods for protection during bombings. Fonda was very approachable, Thanh says, recalling it made him realise that while the US military was their enemy, the American people were friends. It reassured him that his country was not in fact isolated. Fonda was followed by cameras everywhere she went in war-torn Hanoi, including a visit to Bach Mai Hospital. She also spoke to US soldiers in South Vietnam about the destruction she had seen. *-*

Jane Fonda and the Bunker Below the Metropole Hotel

The Vietnam-Era Bunker Below the Metropole Hotel has been preserved in its original state and is open for tours for guests. In October 2012, Cat Barton of AFP wrote: “From Hollywood starlets to scruffy trade union delegations, an unassuming reinforced concrete bunker under a central Hanoi hotel has sheltered communist Vietnam's most important wartime guests. Sealed off and forgotten after hostilities ended in 1975, the dank subterranean passages were unearthed during recent renovation work at the hotel, now favoured by foreign tourists and wealthy Vietnamese. "I felt a little bit like Indiana Jones discovering the Temple of Doom or something," said Kai Speth, general manager of the Metropole Hotel, describing when he first entered the seven-room bunker, which was knee-deep in water.[Source: Cat Barton, AFP, October 9, 2012]

There were always rumours that the bunker -- no more than 20 square meters (215 square feet) in size -- was under the swimming pool bar, he said. "So I told the team when we were rebuilding the foundations of the bar: 'let's dig a little deeper'." The bunker was built in 1968 when the hotel, then known as the Thong Nhat, was a drab, government-run establishment used by the communist authorities to house visiting delegations, including a string of prominent American anti-war activists.

Actress Jane Fonda and folk singer Joan Baez both used the shelter, with Baez recording a song in it during the Christmas bombings in December 1972, when the US dropped some 20,000 tones of ordnance in 11 days. More than 1,600 civilians died in the attack, and Baez's 21-minute recording "Where Are You Now My Son", made in the concrete passages, captures some of the sounds of wartime Hanoi. "You can hear the bombs falling. You can hear the anti-air(craft) machine guns going off that were mounted on the Opera House" near the hotel, Speth said.

Fonda arrived after the Christmas Bombings, her then interpreter Tran Minh Quoc told AFP, but was caught in several raids during her controversial tour of the country which earned her the nickname "Hanoi Jane" back in the States. "We could hear the bombing from afar and we together went down to the bunker... The American air force never hit the hotel. (Fonda) was very calm... She didn't show any fear," he said.

The bunker at the Metropole is one of thousands of similar bomb shelters dug across Hanoi during the decades-long conflict. Most have since been filled in, but one other famous site remains -- behind the walls of Thang Long Citadel lies a bunker where former key leaders General Vo Nguyen Giap and president Ho Chi Minh once sheltered from bomb attacks.

Reaction to Hanoi Jane’s to Vietnam

Fonda met with some American POWs and seemed to take the side of her their North Vietnamese captors. Kazuo Nagata wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Her actions on what was then considered enemy territory caused a major stir back home, where she was pilloried as "Hanoi Jane" in the right-wing and establishment media. According to Norm Smith, who was stationed in South Vietnam as a civilian employee of the US military during the war, Fonda deserves to be branded a traitor because her visit bolstered North Vietnam's position as they sought to negotiate an end to the war with the Paris Peace Accords. When she and Quoc met again in the United States in 2002, she asked if she had been set up. He answered no, but later admitted Fonda's visit had been incredibly valuable to North Vietnam. When the two met in 2002, Fonda told Quoc she wanted to someday return to Vietnam. Eleven years on, however, she has not been back. [Source: Kazuo Nagata, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 15, 2013 *-*]

When "Hanoi Jane" posed in the North Vietnamese antiaircraft gunner’s nest it gave the impression that she supported the shooting down of American planes. Later she wrote: "It was a mistake, and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it. I carry this heavy in my heart and always will." She told 60 Minutes , "It was the largest lapse of judgement that I can even imagaine" but also said she flet she had to do anything she could to "expose the lies and help end the war." Her visit still stirs up the ire of American conservatives, many whom think she should have been tried for treason.

In 2000, in an interview with the chat show personality Oprah Winfrey in O magazine, Fonda said, "I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft carrier, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes...It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanised such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless." Fonda said that at the time of the Hanoi picture she was living a "fun but rather empty life" in France with her first husband, the late film director Roger Vadim. Ed Croucher, executive director of the Vietnam Veterans of America, was unimpressed by her change of heart. "There are many of us who will never forgive her for what she did," he said. "Because of her, prisoners were tortured or denied basic necessities. [Source: Michael Ellison, The Guardian, June 22, 2000]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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