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
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
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
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
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
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.”