Without precedent, legions of angry Vietnam veterans vented their opposition to the war on April 30, when they descended on Washington, D.C. So enraged were many, they hurled their combat medals on the Capitol steps.

The massive show of displeasure by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War had an incendiary effect on the omnipresent antiwar demonstrators who, three days later, staged their own protest in the Capitol. Police randomly arrested thousands for civil disobedience but a court ruling held the arrests were unconstitutional.

In June, Defense Department official Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, the department’s classified study of the war in Vietnam, to The New York Times and Washington Post. The Supreme Court upheld the newspapers’ right to publish the sensitive report.

Motivated by his conviction of the war’s immorality, Ellsberg confessed to the leak two weeks later. An increasingly paranoid President Nixon formed a special investigations unit, known as the “plumbers” to plug leaks. In September, the unit broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in an attempt to embarrass him. In December, Ellsberg was indicted for conspiracy….

On the war front, Americans saw increasingly visible South Vietnamese involvement in combat in their own country and in Cambodia and Laos. Paris peace talks languished as Nguyen Van Thieu, amidst claims of election rigging, won another four-year term as president of South Vietnam. The withdrawal of American troops from the war zone continued despite an apparent military buildup by North Vietnam.

U.S. war casualties spiraled downward in 1971, with 2,357 deaths recorded by the National Archives and Records Administration, the lowest figure since 1965. According to data from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Delaware lost three servicemen. By contrast, the South Vietnamese sustained more than 21,000 casualties while enemy deaths totaled about 97,000.

Fewer American deaths did not, however, translate into fewer feelings about the war.

A Voice from the War

Three months after arriving in Vietnam, Air Force Sgt. Daniel P. Stokes, a Wilmington resident assigned to the 366th Security Police Squadron at Da Nang Air Base, experienced the shock and devastation of war when an enemy rocket struck the base. In his letter, the 750th received by the Mailbag, he brought the war home to our readers.

August 10, 1971
Dear Nancy,

On July 5th, I lost 5 friends. Da Nang was rocketed and a barracks took a direct hit, killing 5 and wounding 32 others. This was my first contact with war in regards to the loss of human lives since I came in country in April.
When they died, I also died. Something died within me. I have not as yet determined what is gone, but I know the feeling that the only thing we’re accomplishing over here is denting the population.
The president has said that he will end the war. He or anyone else will not end this war. He may end the United States’ involvement here, but this is an internal conflict where the only feasible remedy is within the people.
The majority of the Vietnamese would be happy if we would just leave them alone. Before our involvement, they were happy eating their fish and growing their rice.
We, the Americans, have no right appointing ourselves the watchdogs of the world. In my estimation, we are nothing more than a bunch of money-hungry parasites exploiting the underdeveloped nations of the world to take from them anything we can.
In the case of Vietnam, we have taken their freedom. After all, it was our bombs, our Calleys and our superior attitudes towards these people that have driven many of them to turn toward the North. Perhaps not physically, but mentally. How they have put up with the harassment by GIs and some of their own people is beyond me.
There was a time not so long cago when I would get goosebumps and have a feeling of elation when I heard the National Anthem. It’s gone now.
If I knew before I came here what I know now . . . .
As somebody said once “war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”



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