Veterans courageously addressed the issue of atrocities. From January 31-February 2, 1971, VVAW held a three-day “Winter Soldier Investigation” in Detroit, in which over 100 veterans and sixteen civilians described in detail American atrocities in Vietnam. The VVAW proceedings were entered into the Congressional Record by Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, who was elected in 1966 on an antiwar platform. Soon after, Rep. Ron Dellums of Oakland, California, elected in 1970 on an antiwar platform, requested a formal Congressional investigation into American atrocities in Vietnam. House leaders declined. Undaunted, Dellums set up an exhibit in an annex to his office that featured four large posters depicting American atrocities. The posters were provided by the Citizens Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam.
By 1971, the political formula for ending the war had been established. U.S. troops would be withdrawn in stages, in deference to public demand, while the administration would do what it could to help South Vietnam survive without U.S. troops. President Nixon refused to acknowledge the likelihood that continued troop withdrawal would lead to the demise of South Vietnam, whether by treaty or by war. He used every rhetorical sleight-of-hand to present the American exit as “honorable.” The antiwar movement’s political agenda at this point was to ensure that the administration did not backslide and to push up the timetable for withdrawal, which the House of Representatives refused to do.
Stephen P. Randolph, Powerful and Brutal Weapons: Nixon, Kissinger and the Easter Offensive (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007); Truong Nhu Tang, A Vietcong Memoir: An Inside Account of the Vietnam War and its Aftermath (New York: Vintage Books, 1985); David Biggs, Quagmire: Nation Building and Nature in the Mekong Delta (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2010), p. 204; Martin Van Crevald, The Age of Airpower (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), p. 366; Mickey Grant, “The Cu Chi Tunnels (59-minute documentary film, 1990), ; Jonathan Neale, A People’s History of the Vietnam War (New York: The New Press, 2003), pp. 99-100; and Stephen Budiansky, Code Warriors: NSA’s Codebreakers and the Secret Intelligence War Against the Soviet Union (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p. 259.
DePuy is quoted in Bernd Greiner, War Without Fronts: The USA in Vietnam (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 55. Westmoreland is quoted in Guenter Lewy, America in Vietnam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), p. 73.
Karen G. Turner, “Vietnam” as a Woman’s War,” in Marilyn B. Young and Robert Buzzanco, eds., A Companion to the Vietnam War (UK: Blackwell, 2004), p. 97; and Sandra Taylor, Vietnamese Women at War: Fighting for Ho Chi Minh and the Revolution (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1999).
All rights reserved. November 11, 1967: The Vietnamese National Liberation Front (Vietcong) hand three US war prisoners over to a deligation headed by anti-war activist Tom Hayden in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Yet Lyndon Johnson chose war. In the aftermath of his election, he waited only for the right moment to bomb North Vietnam and to deploy large numbers of U.S. combat troops in the south, judging that such actions must be seen as defensive. The moment came on February 7, 1965, when NLF soldiers attacked Camp Holloway, a small airbase near the city of Pleiku, killing nine Americans and wounding 126, and destroying ten aircraft. Johnson immediately initiated a bombing attack on four pre-selected targets in North Vietnam (Operation Flaming Dart), carried out by 132 U.S. and 22 South Vietnamese planes. A few days later, on February 13, he approved a sustained bombing campaign (Operation Rolling Thunder) against North Vietnam. China, meanwhile, declared on February 15 that it would enter the war if the United States invaded North Vietnam.
 [See also: , 1968]November 30, 1967: Senator Eugene McCarthy officially enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, running on an antiwar platform.
108-109]Senator John Stennis (D-Miss) comments about the Pentagon march: "It is clear from the evidence that I have that this is a part of a move by the Communists, especially of North Vietnamese government, to divide the American people, disrupt our war effort, discredit our government before the entire world.
I am sure the great American people, if only they knew the true facts and background to the developments in South Vietnam, will agree with me that further bloodshed is unnecessary. And that the political and diplomatic methods of discussions and negotiations alone can create conditions which will enable the United States to withdraw gracefully from that part of the world. As you know, in times of war and hostilities, the first casualty is truth.
Violently scorned for escalating the Vietnam War, chastised by African Americans for moving too slowly on civil rights, and hounded in Congress for the costliness of his ambitious domestic programs, Johnson had even been deserted by much of his own Democratic Party.
With the introduction of U.S. combat troops, efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people were eclipsed by intensified efforts to win the counterinsurgency war. Given the widespread animosity toward the GVN, if not outright support for the NLF, the American War quickly turned into a war against the rural population. The targets included not only the communist-led NLF but also any person or village that offered support to NLF cadre or failed to expel them from their villages. The idea that Americans could distinguish between communists and non-communists, and between civilians and guerrillas, in a foreign world of thatched huts, straw mats, and wooden plows was predictably illusory, with debilitating consequences. The war against the rural population entailed harsh relocation (“pacification”) programs, a clandestine assassination program against village leaders suspected of helping the NLF (Operation Phoenix), the burning of villages deemed pro-NLF, the bombing and strafing of whole regions decreed as free-fire zones, and the spraying of poisons such as Agent Orange on millions of acres of forests and cultivated fields.
Weather conditions were clear, and seas were calm. At 1440, the destroyer detected three North Vietnamese patrol boats approaching her position from the west. Aware of North Vietnamese intent from the earlier SIGINT [signals intelligence] message, Captain Herrick ordered gun crews to open fire if the fast-approaching trio closed to within 10,000 yards of the destroyer, and at about 1505 three 5-inch shots were fired across the bow of the closest boat. In return, the lead vessel launched a torpedo and veered away. A second boat then launched two “fish” but was hit by gunfire from the destroyer. Re-engaging, the first PT boat launched a second torpedo and opened fire with her 14.5-mm guns, but Maddox shell fire heavily damaged the vessel.