A History of Our Time: Readings on Postwar America

By William H. Chafe; Harvard Sitkoff et al. | Go to book overview

Vietnam Veterans against
the War (1971)

John Kerry

By the early 1970s the American people’s initial support of the government policy in Vietnam had become a yearning for an end to what seemed an interminable and unwinnable war. Americans from all walks of life now openly questioned and protested against the war. The antiwar movement had come to include groups such as Business Executives Move for a Vietnam Peace, the Federation of American Scientists, and Another Mother for Peace.

Vietnam Veterans against the War was one of the most influential and controversial antiwar organizations. Created by six Vietnam Veterans in 1967, it had thousands of members by the end of the decade. In April 1971, more than one thousand VVAW members—many in wheelchairs or on crutches—joined a 200,000 strong antiwar protest in Washington, D.C. “Bring our brothers home,” they chanted. On April 23, thousands of veterans gathered at the U.S. Capitol, took the medals they’d been given by their nation—including Purple Hearts and Silver Stars—and threw them away.

Inside the Capitol building that day, one of their own, John Kerry, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Kerry, a graduate of Yale University, had joined the navy and served as an officer on a gunboat in the Mekong Delta. He had received a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. What he told the Senate committee was devastating. “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” he demanded.

John Kerry was elected to the U.S. Senate (D., MA) in 1984 and has served since that date.

I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified

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