'Hanoi Jane' Meets One of the Key Architects of the Vietnam War

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), June 6, 2005 | Go to article overview

'Hanoi Jane' Meets One of the Key Architects of the Vietnam War


Byline: By Karen Price Western Mail

It was a case of old enemies reconciled as Hollywood star and anti-war campaigner Jane Fonda shook hands with Robert McNamara, a key architect of early US policy in Vietnam, when the pair met at the Hay Festival yesterday.

Fonda was at the literary festival to talk about her new autobiography, My Life So Far, which devotes pages to her visits to North Vietnam during the war.

She met McNamara in the festival Green Room as he was at the event to discuss weapons of mass destruction.

But despite their political differences, Fonda and McNamara, who was Secretary of Defence during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, greeted each other with a handshake.

'When I found out he was going to be here I was hoping I could meet him,' said Fonda, who has just returned to the big screen after a 15-year absence in the movie Monster-In-Law.

'I cannot imagine how hard it was for someone who was an architect of war to get to the point of saying, 'We made a mistake and the war was wrong'.

'For him to say that it meant we (opposers) were right and I wanted to acknowledge that personally. I had to say 'Thank you'.'

Fonda, 67, spoke at length about her visits to North Vietnam, which propelled her onto the world stage during the war and earned her the nickname Hanoi Jane.

'People say it was a naive decision for me to have gone,' said the double Academy Award-winning actress.

'I should not have gone alone but I did not know it was not normal for someone to go alone, especially for a celebrity with a broken foot.'

Today she is still very much anti-war.

'If we had really learned the lessons of Vietnam then we would not have gone into Iraq,' she said, to much applause from the audience at Hay.

But while much of her session was taken up talking about her visits to North Vietnam, she also spoke about her strained relationship with her father, the celebrated actor Henry Fonda; the suicide of her mother when she was just 12; working with 'prickly' Katharine Hepburn, and cosmetic surgery.

While researching for her autobiography, Fonda managed to obtain medical records which belonged to her mother, who had suffered from manic depression.

'Even as a child I sensed that something must have happened to her as a child. Through lawyers I obtained her medical records and when she was admitted to an institution she was asked to write her life history. I discovered she had been sexually abused.'

Fonda said that her mother had scarring on her body from a breast implant operation which had gone wrong, so as a child she believed that because her mother was physically imperfect it drove her father away from home. …

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