America in Protest: Records of Anti-Vietnam Organizations, Part 1: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
About this Collection
Introduction: America in Protest: Records of Anti-VietnamWar Organizations. Part 1: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Scope and Content Note
The Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) started in 1967with six Vietnam veterans marching for peace in New York City. The purpose ofthe organization was to give voice to the returning servicemen who opposed theon-going war in Southeast Asia. From six soldiers in 1967, the ranks of themembership eventually grew to over 30,000. Over four decades later this organizationstill exists, which makes this collection of over 21,000 pages relevant forthose interested in todays antiwar movement and its history during the VietnamWar era. In an attempt to keep this group under close watch, the Federal Bureauof Investigation (FBI) maintained diligent surveillance of the VVAW almost fromthe inception of the groups activities and running through 1975, when theUnited States ended its presence in Vietnam.
This microfilm publication consists of FBI reports dealingwith every aspect of antiwar work carried out by the VVAW. The collection alsoincludes surveillance on a variety of other antiwar groups and individuals,with an emphasis on student groups and Communist organizations.
The collection opens with numerous reports, newsletters, andposition papers, as well as an FBI historical overview on the leading antiwarorganizations during the Vietnam War era. The first two reels of the collectiondo not follow a chronological order, however starting on the third reel and concludingon the final reel, the collection flows from mid-1971 through late 1975. Someof the more in-depth reports conducted by the FBI include detailed surveillanceof national and steering committee meetings, where major decisions, debates,and elections took place. At these meetings the VVAW generalized experiencesfrom local chapters, organized for demonstrations and campaigns, and formulatedplans for working within the broad Antiwar Movement. In addition, financialdecisions, elections of officers, and updates on legal cases were reviewed atthese meetings.
The collection includes a wide range of position paperswritten by antiwar movement activists. The papers in many instances were openletters to the broad Antiwar Movement, and included topics such as sexism andracism in the movement, the struggle for amnesty, and the debate on pacifism asa strategic tactic. The anti-imperialism controversy was an ever-present debatein the movement and can be found in numerous position papers in the collection.
The FBI maintained extensive surveillance on college anduniversity campuses with informants reporting on the slightest activity byantiwar groups and individuals. VVAW campus chapters were monitored closely instates such as Florida, New York, California, Texas, and Ohio. The FBI keptclose watch on other groups and organizations on campus, most notably theStudents for a Democratic Society (SDS). Detailed information on the rise andeventual split of the SDS are covered in the collection. There is also documentationon the Kent State shootings and subsequent campus strikes.
Wherever Communist and Socialist organizations were involvedin antiwar activities, the FBI made certain that they were closely followed andthis is highlighted throughout the collection. Detailed reports by informantsand internal FBI memos discussed the danger of Marxist groups and theirinfluence inside the VVAW, in particular and the Antiwar Movement in general.The Communist Party USA and the Socialist Workers Party, including their youthand front groups, received a tremendous amount of attention by the FBI.Specific radical groups, particularly the Revolutionary Union, receiveextensive coverage in the FBI reports, because they were blamed for some ofthe most serious conflicts inside the VVAW.
In 1972, the VVAW, along with many other antiwar groups,planned demonstrations for the Republican National Convention in Miami. VVAWsshowpiece demonstration in Miami was the successful silent march of over 1500Vietnam veterans through downtown Miami Beach to President Nixons hotel, whereVVAW leaders demanded the immediate improvement of treatment for returningVietnam veterans and the withdrawal of the remaining troops in Southeast Asiaimmediately. Numerous other demonstrations during this time, including theso-called Battle of Miami, led to arrests of many veterans.
The uncovering of the Watergate scandal in 1973-1974reinvigorated the antiwar movement, with much of the activity revolving aroundthe call for Nixons impeachment. The FBI collected reports from every regionof the country regarding the protests and rallies surrounding the Nixonimpeachment.
This microfilm publication includes a number of legal casesrevolving around constitutional rights, wiretapping, and civil rights.Plaintiffs in the cases included students, veterans, and activists who sued onthe grounds that their civil liberties were infringed upon by the federalgovernment. William Kunstler represented veterans who fought for their rightsin New Mexico, while the prisoners from the Attica Uprising entered what wouldbecome landmark decades-long litigation. The National Lawyers Guild representedhundreds of antiwar organizations and members of the 1982-1989 case against theU.S. Attorney General for the illegal monitoring of Vietnam War protestors.
The FBI made certain to keep close surveillance of some ofthe more well-known and famous antiwar activists such as Jane Fonda and JohnKerry. Their public appearances, speeches, and movements were extensively monitored- these detailed reports are found throughout the collection. Surveillancereports on the prolific antiwar writer and historian Howard Zinn are also wellrepresented.
The final segment of the collection has a significant amountof material from 1975, and offers some fascinating documents surroundingexpulsions, resignations and debates in the VVAW, as well as other antiwarorganizations. A major discussion found at the conclusion of the collectionrelates to the future of the VVAW. As American involvement in Vietnam came toan end in the spring of 1975, the VVAW struggled with the future of theirpurpose - do they continue to oppose all imperialist wars or do they simplyfold now that the Vietnam War had ended. Final documents include in-depth andlengthy letters of resignations by some of the more experienced leaders of theVVAW.
The materials in this publication have been released underthe Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Under FOIA regulations, the FBI andother federal agencies reserve the right to withhold or delete any documents orsegments of documents due to privacy concerns, confidentiality of sources,and/or matters of national security. There are documents in this collectionthat have portions withheld. Primary Source Media, an imprint of Gale, a partof Cengage Learning, has microfilmed these documents in their entirety, asreleased.
The FBIs file designation system consists of three parts.The first three numbers indicate the kind of offense the FBI was investigatingwhen it opened the file. In the case of the VVAW surveillance, the file numberbegins with 100 and thus would be classified 100, or an investigation intodomestic security. The numbers following 100 signify further internal FBIidentification for each particular file.
The last 300 pages of Reel 21 should have been filmed at theend of Reel 18. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have causedresearchers.