The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans against the War

The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans against the War

The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans against the War

The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans against the War

Synopsis

The anti-Vietnam War movement in the United States is perhaps best remembered for its young, counterculture student protesters. However, the Vietnam War was the first conflict in American history in which a substantial number of military personnel actively protested the war while it was in progress.

In The Turning , Andrew Hunt reclaims the history of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), an organization that transformed the antiwar movement by placing Vietnam veterans in the forefront of the nationwide struggle to end the war. Misunderstood by both authorities and radicals alike, VVAW members were mostly young men who had served in Vietnam and returned profoundly disillusioned with the rationale for the war and with American conduct in Southeast Asia. Angry, impassioned, and uncompromisingly militant, the VVAW that Hunt chronicles in this first history of the organization posed a formidable threat to America's Vietnam policy and further contributed to the sense that the nation was under siege from within.

Based on extensive interviews and in-depth primary research, including recently declassified government files, The Turning is a vivid history of the men who risked censures, stigma, even imprisonment for a cause they believed to be "an extended tour of duty."

Excerpt

The 1960s and the first half of the 1970s—an era known as “the sixties” to most observers—has perhaps generated more mythology than any other period in American history. Over time, the standard paradigms of the sixties have become clichés. The scenario is familiar: The decade began with the highest of ideals and aspirations, as embodied by John F. Kennedy's New Frontier and the imagery of Camelot. It ended with Kent State, and then Watergate, and, finally, U.S. helicopters fleeing the rooftop of the American Embassy as Communist troops encircled Saigon. In between those two ends of the decade, a Civil Rights Movement ended American apartheid, the Cold War consensus collapsed in the jungles of Southeast Asia and the streets of the United States, a generation gap widened, a counterculture emerged, a predominantly middleclass New Left drifted left until it triggered apocalyptic confrontations in the streets of Chicago, and a youthful spirit of reform faded into the “me” ethos of the seventies.

For years, historians, writers, and participant-memoirists accepted this version of the sixties without much question or variation. It proved to be a tidy way of summarizing a complicated time in American history. In recent years, sixties chroniclers have shifted their attention increasingly to the “neglected constituencies” of the period. Recently, the spotlight has slowly shifted away from figures who dominated the old sixties narratives—namely, members of Students for a Democratic Society and media pop icons such as Abbie Hoffman—to other activists who exercised just as profound an influence at the time but who have been ignored or deligitimized in most histories. These players include feminists, Chicano power activists, gay militants, American Indian Movement organizers, and antiwar veterans.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) is an organization that has rarely received adequate consideration in the standard sixties histories. The organization could boast everything that SDS claimed: tens of . . .

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