I grew up during World War II. My childhood was influenced by the roles my father played in his movies. Whether Abraham Lincoln or Tom Joad in the Grapes of Wrath, his characters communicated certain values which I try to carry with me to this day. I remember saying goodbye to my father the night he left to join the Navy. He didn’t have to. He was older than other servicemen and had a family to support but he wanted to be a part of the fight against fascism, not just make movies about it. I admired this about him. I grew up with a deep belief that wherever our troops fought, they were on the side of the angels.
For the first 8 years of the Vietnam War I lived in France. I was married to the French film director, Roger Vadim and had my first child. The French had been defeated in their own war against Vietnam a decade before our country went to war there, so when I heard, over and over, French people criticizing our country for our Vietnam War I hated it. I viewed it as sour grapes. I refused to believe we could be doing anything wrong there.
It wasn’t until I began to meet American servicemen who had been in Vietnam and had come to Paris as resisters that I realized I needed to learn more. I took every chance I could to meet with U.S. soldiers. I talked with them and read the books they gave me about the war. I decided I needed to return to my country and join with them—active duty soldiers and Vietnam Veterans in particular—to try and end the war. I drove around the country visiting military bases, spending time in the G.I. Coffee houses that had sprung up outside many bases –places where G.I.s could gather. I met with Army psychiatrists who were concerned about the type of training our men were receiving…quite different, they said, from the trainings during WWII and Korea. The doctors felt this training was having a damaging effect on the psyches of the young men, effects they might not recover from. I raised money and hired a former Green Beret, Donald Duncan, to open and run the G.I. Office in Washington D.C. to try and get legal and congressional help for soldiers who were being denied their rights under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I talked for hours with U.S. pilots about their training, and what they were told about Vietnam. I met with the wives of servicemen. I visited V.A. hospitals. Later in 1978, wanting to share with other Americans some of what I had learned about the experiences of returning soldiers and their families, I made the movie Coming Home. I was the one who would be asked to speak at large anti-war rallies to tell people that the men in uniform were not the enemy, that they did not start the war, that they were, in growing numbers our allies. I knew as much about military law as any layperson. I knew more than most civilians about the realities on the ground for men in combat. I lived and breathed this stuff for two years before I went to North Vietnam. I cared deeply for the men and boys who had been put in harms way. I wanted to stop the killing and bring our servicemen home. I was infuriated as I learned just how much our soldiers were being lied to about why we were fighting in Vietnam and I was anguished each time I would be with a young man who was traumatized by his experiences. Some boys shook constantly and were unable to speak above a whisper.
It is unconscionable that extremist groups circulate letters which accuse me of horrific things, saying that I am a traitor, that POWs in Hanoi were tied up and in chains and marched passed me while I spat at them and called them ‘baby killers. These letters also say that when the POWs were brought into the room for a meeting I had with them, we shook hands and they passed me tiny slips of paper on which they had written their social security numbers. Supposedly, this was so that I could bring back proof to the U.S. military that they were alive. The story goes on to say that I handed these slips of paper over to the North Vietnamese guards and, as a result, at least one of the men was tortured to death. That these stories could be given credence shows how little people know of the realities in North Vietnam prisons at the time. The U.S. government and the POW families didn’t need me to tell them who the prisoners were. They had all their names. Moreover, according to even the most hardcore senior officers, torture stopped late in 1969, two and a half years before I got there. And, most importantly, I would never say such things to our servicemen, whom I respect, whether or not I agree with the mission they have been sent to perform, which is not of their choosing.
But these lies have circulated for almost forty years, continually reopening the wound of the Vietnam War and causing pain to families of American servicemen. The lies distort the truth of why I went to North Vietnam and they perpetuate the myth that being anti-war means being anti-soldier.
Little known is the fact that almost 300 Americans—journalists, diplomats, peace activists, professors, religious leaders and Vietnam Veterans themselves—had been traveling to North Vietnam over a number of years in an effort to try and find ways to end the war (By the way, those trips generated little if any media attention.) I brought with me to Hanoi a thick package of letters from families of POWs. Since 1969, mail for the POWs had been brought in and out of North Vietnam every month by American visitors. The Committee of Liaison With Families coordinated this effort. I took the letters to the POWs and brought a packet of letters from them back to their families.
The Photo of Me on the Gun Site.
There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day— I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun. I want to, once again, explain how that came about. I have talked about this numerous times on national television and in my memoirs, My Life So Far, but clearly, it needs to be repeated.
It happened on my last day in Hanoi. I was exhausted and an emotional wreck after the 2-week visit. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced. When we arrived at the site of the anti-aircraft installation (somewhere on the outskirts of Hanoi), there was a group of about a dozen young soldiers in uniform who greeted me. There were also many photographers (and perhaps journalists) gathered about, many more than I had seen all in one place in Hanoi. This should have been a red flag.
The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song. He translated as they sung. It was a song about the day ‘Uncle Ho’ declared their country’s independence in Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square. I heard these words: “All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.” These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do.
The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return. As it turned out I was prepared for just such a moment: before leaving the United States, I memorized a song called Day Ma Di, written by anti-war South Vietnamese students. I knew I was slaughtering it, but everyone seemed delighted that I was making the attempt. I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping, including me, overcome on this, my last day, with all that I had experienced during my 2 week visit. What happened next was something I have turned over and over in my mind countless times. Here is my best, honest recollection of what happened: someone (I don’t remember who) led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding. It all had nothing to do with where I was sitting. I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. “Oh my God. It’s going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.” I pleaded with him, “You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.” I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn’t know what else to do. (I didn’t know yet that among the photographers there were some Japanese.)
It is possible that it was a set up, that the Vietnamese had it all planned. I will never know. But if they did I can’t blame them. The buck stops here. If I was used, I allowed it to happen. It was my mistake and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it. Had I brought a politically more experienced traveling companion with me they would have kept me from taking that terrible seat. I would have known two minutes before sitting down what I didn’t realize until two minutes afterwards; a two-minute lapse of sanity that will haunt me forever. The gun was inactive, there were no planes overhead, I simply wasn’t thinking about what I was doing, only about what I was feeling, innocent of what the photo implies. But the photo exists, delivering its message regardless of what I was doing or feeling. I carry this heavy in my heart. I have apologized numerous times for any pain I may have caused servicemen and their families because of this photograph. It was never my intention to cause harm. It is certainly painful for me that I, who had spent so much time talking to soldiers, trying to help soldiers and veterans, helping the anti-war movement to not blame the soldiers, now would be seen as being against our soldiers!
So Why I Did I Go?
On May 8th, 1972, President Nixon had ordered underwater, explosive mines to be placed in Haiphong Harbor, something that had been rejected by previous administrations. Later that same month, reports began to come in from European scientists and diplomats that the dikes of the Red River Delta in North Vietnam were being targeted by U.S. planes. The Swedish ambassador to Vietnam reported to an American delegation in Hanoi that he had at first believed the bombing was accidental, but now, having seen the dikes with his own eyes, he was convinced it was deliberate.
I might have missed the significance of these reports had Tom Hayden, whom I was dating, not shown me what the recently released Pentagon Papers had to say on the subject: in 1966, Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton, searching for some new means to bring Hanoi to its knees, had proposed destroying North Vietnam’s system of dams and dikes, which, he said, “If handled right- might…offer promise…such destruction does not kill or drown people. By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after a time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided—which we could offer to do at the conference table.” President Johnson, to his credit, had not acted upon this option.
Now, six years later, Richard Nixon appeared to have given orders to target the dikes—whether to actually destroy them or to demonstrate the threat of destruction, no one knew.
It is important to understand that the Red River is the largest river in North Vietnam. Like Holland, its delta is below sea level. Over centuries, the Vietnamese people have constructed –by hand!– an intricate network of earthen dikes and dams to hold back the sea, a network two thousand five hundred miles long! The stability of these dikes becomes especially critical as monsoon season approaches, and requires an all-out effort on the part of citizens to repair any damage from burrowing animals or from normal wear and tear. Now it was June, but this was no ‘normal wear and tear’ they were facing. The Red River would begin to rise in July and August. Should there be flooding, the mining of Haiphong Harbor would prevent any food from being imported; the bombing showed no signs of letting up; and there was little press coverage of the impending disaster should the dikes be weakened by the bombing and give way. Something drastic had to be done.
The Nixon Administration and its US Ambassador to the United Nations, George Bush (the father), would vehemently deny what was happening, but the following are excerpts from the April-May 1972 transcripts of conversations between President Nixon and top administration officials.
April 25th 1972
Nixon: “We’ve got to be thinking in terms of an all-out bombing attack [of North Vietnam}…Now, by all-out bombing attack, I am thinking about things that go far beyond…I’m thinking of the dikes, I’m thinking of the railroad, I’m thinking, of course, of the docks.”
Kissinger: “I agree with you.”
President Nixon: “And I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?”
Kissinger: “About two hundred thousand people.”
President Nixon: “No, no, no…I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: “That, I think, would just be too much.”
President Nixon: “The nuclear bomb, does that bother you?…I just want to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.”
May 4, 1972.
John B. Connally (Secretary of the Treasury):…”bomb for seriousness, not just as a signal. Railroads, ports, power stations, communication lines…and don’t worry about killing civilians. Go ahead and kill ’em….People think you are [killing civilians] now. So go ahead and give ’em some.”
Richard Nixon: “That’s right.”
[Later in same conversation]
Richard Nixon: “We need to win the goddamned war…and…what that fella [?] said about taking out the goddamned dikes, all right, we’ll take out the goddamned dikes….If Henry’s for that, I’m for it all the way.”
The administration wanted the American public to believe Nixon was winding down the war because he was bringing our ground troops home. (At the time I went to Hanoi, there were only approximately 25,000 troops left in South Vietnam from a high of 540,000 in early 1969) In fact, the war was escalating…from the air. And, as I said, monsoon season was approaching. Something drastic had to be done.
That May, I received an invitation from the North Vietnamese in Paris to make the trip to Hanoi. Many had gone before me but perhaps it would take a different sort of celebrity to get people’s attention. Heightened public attention was what was needed to confront the impending crisis with the dikes. I would take a camera and bring back photographic evidence (if such was to be found) of the bomb damage of the dikes we’d been hearing about.
I arranged the trip’s logistics through the Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Peace talks, bought myself a round trip ticket and stopped in New York to pick up letters for the POWs.
Frankly, the trip felt like a call to service. It was a humanitarian mission, not a political trip. My goal was to expose and try to halt the bombing of the dikes. (The bombing of the dikes ended a month after my return from Hanoi)
The only problem was that I went alone. Had I been with a more experienced, clear-headed, traveling companion, I would not have allowed myself to get into a situation where I was photographed on an anti-aircraft gun.
My trip to North Vietnam never became a big story in the Summer/Fall of 1972–nothing on television, one small article in the New York Times. The majority of the American public, Congress, and the media were opposed to the war by then and they didn’t seem to take much notice of my trip. After all, as I said, almost three hundred Americans had gone to Hanoi before me. There had been more than eighty broadcasts by Americans over Radio Hanoi before I made mine. I had decided to do the broadcasts because I was so horrified by the bombing of civilian targets and I wanted to speak to U.S. pilots as I had done on so many occasions during my visits to U.S. military bases and at G.I. Coffee houses. I never asked pilots to desert. I wanted to tell them what I was seeing as an American on the ground there. The Nixon Justice Department poured over the transcripts of my broadcasts trying to find a way to put me on trial for treason but they could find none. A. William Olson, a representative of the Justice Department,  said after studying the transcripts, that I had asked the military “to do nothing other than to think.”
But from the Nixon Administration’s point of view, something had to be done. If the government couldn’t prosecute me in court because, in reality, I had broken no laws, then the pro-war advocates would make sure I was prosecuted in the court of public opinion.
The myth making about my being responsible for POW torture began seven months after I returned from North Vietnam, and several months after the war had ended, and the U.S. POWs had returned home. “Operation Homecoming,” in February 1973, was planned by the Pentagon and orchestrated by the White House. It was unprecedented in its lavishness. I was outraged that there had been no homecoming celebrations for the 10s of 1000s of men who had done combat. But from 1969 until their release in 1973, Nixon had made sure that the central issue of the war for many Americans was about the torture of American POWs (the very same years when the torture had stopped!). He had to seize the opportunity to create something that resembled victory. It was as close as he would come, and the POWs were the perfect vehicles to deflect the nation’s attention away from what our government had done in Vietnam, how they had broken faith with our servicemen.
I became a target the government could use, to suggest that some POWs who had met with me while I was in Hanoi had been tortured into pretending they were anti-war. The same thing was done to try and frame former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, whose trip to North Vietnam followed mine.
According to Seymour Hersh, author and journalist who uncovered the My Lai massacre and, later, the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, when American families of POWs became alarmed at the news that there was torture in North Vietnam prisons, they received letters from the Pentagon saying: “We are certain that you will not become unduly concerned over the [torture] briefing if you keep in mind the purpose for which it was tailored.”
But, according to what the POWs wrote in their books, conditions in the POW camps improved in the four years preceding their release—that is, from 1969 until 1973. Upon their release, Newsweek magazine wrote, “the [torture] stories seemed incongruent with the men telling them – a trim, trig [note: this is actually the word used in the article] lot who, given a few pounds more flesh, might have stepped right out of a recruiting poster.”
Once the POWs were home, the Pentagon and White House handpicked a group of the highest ranking POWs–senior officers, to travel the national media circuit, some of them telling of torture. A handwritten note from President Nixon to H.R. Haldeman says that “the POW’s need to have the worst quotes of R. Clark and Fonda” to use in their TV appearances, but this information shouldn’t come from the White House. These media stories were allowed to become the official narrative, the universal “POW Story,” giving the impression that all the men had been subjected to systematic torture—right up to the end–and that torture was the policy of the North Vietnamese government. The POWs who said there was no torture in their camps were never allowed access to the media.
Not that any torture is justified or that anyone who had been tortured should have been prevented from telling about it. But the Nixon White House orchestrated a distorted picture of what actually occurred.
In my anger at the torture story that was being allowed to spread, at how the entire situation was being manipulated, I made a mistake I deeply regret. I said that the POWs claiming torture were liars, hypocrites, and pawns.
I said, “I’m quite sure that there were incidents of torture…but the pilots who are saying it was the policy of the Vietnamese and that it was systematic, I believe that’s a lie.”
What I didn’t know at the time was that although there had been no torture after 1969, before then there had been systematic torture of some POWS. One of the more hawkish of them, James Stockdale, wrote in his book, In Love and War, that no more than ten percent of the pilots received at least ninety percent of the punishment. John Hubbell, in P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, agreed, and affirmed the fact that torture stopped in 1969.
When the POWs came home, some who had been there longest told the press how they clogged up prison toilets and sewers, refused to come when ordered, or follow prison rules. One of the most famous, Jeremiah Denton, said, “We forced them [the guards] to be brutal to us.” I relay this not to minimize the hardships that the POWs endured, nor to excuse it– but to attempt belatedly to restore a greater depth of insight into the entire POW experience with their captors.
Still, whether any torture was administered to certain, more recalcitrant POWs and not to others is unacceptable. Even though only a small percent of prisoners were tortured by U.S. soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, it wasn’t right. According to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s standards, torturing prisoners to get information is justified. It isn’t. Not ever. All nations must adhere to the Geneva Convention’s rules of warfare.
As anyone who knew or worked with me in those years knows that my heart has always been with the soldiers. I should have been clearer that my anger back then was at the Nixon Administration. It was the administration, in its cynical determination to keep hostilities between the U.S. and Vietnam alive and to distract people from the administration’s mistakes, who tried to use the POWs as pawns.
Addressing The Internet lies
By the end of the Nineties, even more grotesque torture lies began to be circulated about me over the Internet—the ones that continue to this day.
Let me quote a former POW, Captain Mike McGrath (USN Retired), president of the POW-NAM Organization. In a letter to Roger Friedman, at the time a columnist for Fox411, on Friday, January 12, 2001 (he gave Friedman permission to make the letter public) McGrath wrote:
Yes, the Carrigan/Driscoll/strips of paper story is an Internet hoax. It has been around since Nov 1999 or so. To the best of my knowledge none of this ever happened. This is a hoax story placed on the Internet by unknown Fonda haters. No one knows who initiated the story. I have spoken with all the parties named: Carrigan, Driscoll, et al. They all state that this particular story is a hoax and wish to disassociate their names from the false story. They never made the statements attributed to them.
In his letter, McGrath also said to Friedman that by the time I went to Hanoi in 1972, treatment of the POWs was starting to improve and that I “did not bring torture or abuse to the POWs,” but that one man [Hoffman], the “senior ranking man in a room full of new guys,” was tortured (“hung by his broken arm”) to make him come to the meeting with me. McGrath wrote:
Why one man (name withheld by request) was picked out for torture of his broken arm is unknown…
The answer is, it never happened!
Will what I have written here stop the myths from continuing to be spread on the Internet and in mass mailings to conservative Republicans? I don’t know. Some people seem to need to hate and I make a convenient lightning rod. I think the lies and distortions serve some right-wing purpose—fundraising? Demonizing me so as to scare others from becoming out-spoken anti-war activists? Who knows? But at least here, on my blog (and in my memoirs), there is a place where people who are genuinely interested in the truth can find it.
 PP Vol. 1V, p. 43 (Italics in the original)
 As Hitler had done to the Netherlands during World War II. German High Commissioner Seyss-Inquart was condemned to death at Nuremberg for opening the dikes in Holland.
 Oval Office Conversation No. 719-22, May 4, 1972; Nixon White House Tapes; National Archives at College Park, College Park MD
 Hearings before the Committee on Internal Security, House of Representatives, 92 Congress, Second Session, Sept. 10 & 25th, 1972 (Washington: Government Printing Office): 7552
 Hersh, The P.O.W. Issue: A National Issue is Born, Dayton (Ohio) Journal-Herald, 13-18 Feb 1971
 Newsweek, 4/16/73
 Nixon Presidential Materials Staff, White House Special Files: Staff Mamber & Office Files: H.R. Haldeman: Box 47: Folder: H. Notes Jan-Feb-Mar 1973 National Archives
 NYT, 7 April 1973,11
 In Love and War, p.447
 P.O.W.: A Definitive History of the American Prisoner-of-War Experience in Vietnam, John G. Hubbell, 91,430
 New York Times, 30 April 1973.
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Jane, you are absolutely within your rights to make this statement. There is a ridiculous amount of spin and fiction played out by people making a political point out of half truths and downright lies. I have your mugshot on my desktop at work to remind me to stand up for what I believe in and represent those with a lower (or at worst without a) voice. You are representing the best of America. The world is a big place full of many people. It’s complex, but I truly believe that love and respect are fundamental traits of all of us and access to knowledge is the best way to share that understanding. Keep doing what you’re doing and we’ll keep doing the same. x
Jane, I’m sorry you are even in a position of having to defend yourself about something that happened over forty years ago.
I hope you won’t regret what you did until your “dying day”; although you did not intend to make a political statement with your visit to Hanoi, it certainly become one. That’s O.K. Because the Vietnam war was WRONG just as the Iraq war was WRONG. And anytime anyone stands up against the atrocities of those wars in particular – that’s a good thing in my book.
If in anyone’s mind they still believe that what you did was morally wrong, then will these same people ever believe that what WE (the United States) did should be called into question or was wrong? The fact that our U.S. leaders so cavalierly put U.S. lives on the line – for WHAT? and WHY? and what did we gain by that? Then or now?
A young girl sitting on a gun with a smile on her face is meaningless compared to all the lives that were lost in senseless wars.
The people who continue to drum up the “Jane Fonda is a traitor” lingo are the same people that are willing to let the U.S. go into default; are the same people who believe social security and medicare are communist; are the same people who run clinics to turn gays straight, who believe our President isn’t a U.S. citizen – And – they are the same people who think nothing of bombing and invading the wrong country for weapons they never had. Did we even apologize? No.
I am a big supporter of Jane Fonda. Not just the actress, but the political activist. Thank You for all you do and for making your voice heard. I will gladly sign your pledge.
Dont fret, we can see, there’s been a few times in life when ive been caught between the Devil & the deep blue sea, thankfully, i did’nt have photographers on my coat-tails.
I believe you, so do many others, THINK Jane, SO many things being uncovered in this day and age, and your story is just ONE of them, people are suspicious (rightfully so) of all that is told them, maybe we can reach the truth faster and faster till they get worn down ( to the “nitty Gritty”).
Go on yerself girl, and never shut up. xxx
I just spent thirty minutes reading your post while also trying to listen to the President talk about the House Speaker walking out on deficit reduction negociations and the raising of the debt ceiling. It occurred to me there were parallels to be drawn from both your Vietnam experiences and the current climate in Washington. What is just, what is fair, and what the truth is, ultimately, doesn’t matter to a large group of folks on the “right”. It’s all about their “agenda”. You were no doubt caught up in the Nixon administrations agenda and were portrayed in a way that suited their interests with no regard for the truth or what it would do to you personally. We are now dealing with freshman members in the house of representatives, teabaggers, who came to Washington with an agenda, an agenda that in no way includes fairness, compromise, or the truth for that matter. These people are committed to the mentality that “it’s their way, or no way”, and to be clear, they believe liberals are at the root of everything that’s wrong with America. You were viewed, and still are to many, as a voice of “liberal Hollywood”. I know that’s of no revelation to you. The difference between “us & them”, is that we have the need for compassion toward our fellow man, we have the need for truthfulness, and above all, we have the need to make sense. I know you were thrown by what happened over your scheduled appearance on QVC. You probably had difficulty believing your involvement during the Vietnam era could still be creating obstacles for you some 40 years later. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and it wasn’t based on truth. I know it’s difficult not to focus on those who revile you, I, however, would like to ask you to make your focus those of us who believe in the same things as you, a sense of fairness, a sense of compassion for your fellow man, a committment to truthfulness, and an understanding that “dissent is patriotic”. We are still out here, though are voices seem to be drowned out more and more these days, we’re still here, and we understand the motivations that caused you the trouble at QVC. They’re simply not any different than the resistance those of us on the left feel everyday. Some of us have even experienced similiar personal attacks. Case in point, the nasty personal remarks made by Rep. Allen West toward DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz this week. I know this may seem like an oversimplification of what happened to you, but the underlying motivations are the same. You got in the way of someone elses agenda, much the same way those of us on the left get in the way of those on the extreme right. Thanks again for telling your story. Many of us had already heard it but you obviously felt in view of recent events, it bore repeating. You have the love, respect and admiration of many. I hope you’ll never allow the haters to drown out the voices of the rest of us! Very Sincerely, Rick
I’m so sorry that you have had to explain this again for people. But it was necessary.
I hope at least some of those who didn’t bother to read your autobiography will now have an accurate picture of what actually happened.
There is no democracy if we can not protest an unjust and pointless war (indeed, any war) without being hounded. I often feel that those who are still perpetuating heinous lies about you would be better off in some backward theocracy somewhere, where free speech is afforded only to a select few. You were one of many, many brave protestors, not all of whom were well known, but who were certainly involved at the deepest level and therefore more than qualified to question the government that was supposed to serve THEM…
“In 1967, 100,000 took part in a protest rally in Washington DC. In 1971, 300,000 took part in an anti-war demonstration in the same city. This particular protest involved many veterans from the war. When they publicly threw away their medals and medal ribbons, many in America were shocked that those who had worn the uniform of the US military had come to think that the only way ahead was to discard the very things that had been issued to them to represent their bravery – their medals. Many veterans used the opportunity to throw their medals on the steps of the Capitol building.” (http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk)
You sure have put the bar up a little higher, with this recount. You bring back alot of thing in my mind, in 1968 I turned 18 had been doing alot of anti-war work for a few years even than.
Thank you so much for that oversimplication of events that seem to last forever in my time.
I do recall reading that, there was a technical Passport reason, one regarding the fact that it was not stamped, so in fact you did not go on that Trip To Hanoi on paper, as Treasonable Offences,
correct me if I’m in error.
The feeling run deep in me, after reading this I only have a greater respect for you and your experiences during that period of time.
with love and care Jane,
Your history of NVN torture is correct. You could not have known about POW abuse by the NVN when you visited. In 1966-67 I was an air intelligence officer, Air Wing 19, USS Ticonderoga. While the CNO and Pres. Johnson (and later, Pres. Nixon) KNEW US airmen were being tortured, they, for unfathonable reasons, kept it from the American public and all but the highest levels of our military. Years later I found out that one POW, a Navy pilot, in a film used blinking to send in Morris code the word “TORTURE”. Ho Chi Minh was behind the torture; many NVN senior officers thought it was stupid and counter-productive, but Uncle Ho overruled them. Within a month or two of Ho’s death (9/2/1969), torture ceased, and conditions improved for the POW’s. The dichotomy between the prisoners tortured and those not tortured endured to this day. But you at the time knew as much about the POW situation as most intelligence officers—-very little.
Jane, I respect and admire you very much. You are the kind of American we should all attempt to become.
Carol L. Clark
I saw you at Manley Field House for an anti-war demonstration way back in the 1970s. Donald Sutherland was there, Tom Hayden. I was a great fan. Still am.
Thank you for filling in all the details. I was unaware of probably most of what you’ve written. My own anti-war stance took a few years to develop and occurred when I was a sophomore in college. I couldn’t get over the essential bullying of the mighty US against the tiny Viet Nam. That pretty much did it for me. I needed no more – I have always despised bullies. Your exegesis fills in many holes. Thank you.
All good things to you. BTW, you don’t need QVC. You’re too big for them.
I think most people have moved on and I hope the extreme few who like to fan the flames of hatred aren’t allowed to keep this issue alive for their own self serving reasons. I don’t know if QVC identifies the objectors or not (probably not) but I surmise they are the same whackos who object to everything and everyone who dares to think differently from them. Most people are now above this and should not give these extremists the satisfaction of so much attention.
Hi, Jane. I would have posted a comment sooner but I have had great trouble logging into your system. Now, it is solved.
Anyway, I support you all the way. You have always been a role model for me. I have always supported your politics and been a big fan of your acting. I learned a lot about the Vietnam war from hearing you speak on TV and in the media, back in the day.
Don’t let those Right Wing losers get you down. Lots of people are behind you, as you now know. I wish you great peace, joy and happiness.
as someone who was not yet born during the vietnam war, THANK YOU for the detailed backdrop. it places everything into context for me and helps to refine the broad strokes understanding i have of the mood the pervaded then . . . again, i say, you are a patriot jane.
a leap of faith..my choice has been made..you have seen the Nixon administration own lies laid bare…thanks for sharing..a covert
Cdr. John Newlin, USN (Ret)
I’m so glad that I found your Blog, Jane. I’ve always considered you a brave patriot and when I received those scurrilous emails condemning you as traitor from Navy “friends” I struck back and those “friends” were friends no longer.
I served with John McCain aboard Forrestal in the summer of 1967. I was in a fighter squadron, McCain was in an air-to-ground attack squadron. One day as I was walking down the hangar deck I passed McCain going in the opposite direction. Just then one of his enlisted men called out, “How goes the war, Mr. McCain? McCain replied, “Better than no war at all.”
One night in the NAS Cubi Point Officer’s Club McCain was entertaining a group of his fellow pilots with praise about one of the enlisted men in the squadron who was black. “I’d be proud to own him,” McCain told his fellow officers. That quip resulted in peals of laughter.
Just after Forrestal arrived on Yankee Station in the Gulf, a new rule of engagement was published by the Yankee Team commander. It defined Waterborne Logistic Craft (WBLCs) as any vessel of any size heading south in the Gulf of Tonkin that was making a wake. We were authorized to attack any and all WBLCs as targets of opportunity. When I realized that thousands and thousands of innocent Vietnamese families lived on junks and sampans along the Vietnamese coast I realized just how rotten and corrupt that war was.
Thank you, Jane Fonda, for your service as an advocate for your country and for the men and women who serve her.
Cdr. John Newlin, USN (Ret.)
Hi Jane – I’ve always felt indignant that people tried to twist your reasons and motivations for trying to stop the war. As far as I’m concerned, you have my admiration because it took GUTS to challenge the ‘party line’ in those days. I was drafted while the TET offensive was still going on, and I knew I was in the worlds largest insane asylum. I was the only guy in my training company who knew squat about what the reality of the war was. Most of them were walking into a shitstorm and somehow thought they were in the boy scouts and were going to be saving people..
Since then I’ve decided that one of my life missions is to outlive all the deluded pricks that sent my generation to war…and to expose their cynicism & stupidity whenever possible.
So I’ve always seen you as a Heroic Icon in the fight against the insanity of militarism. I hope I get to meet you some day…
Hey Jane – pleasure – I like how you pinpointed the difference between how successive generations viewed things. Like yourself, although my main concern is animal rights, there’s nobody gonna shut me up when I spot BS, but myself, I don’t care what others think. In fact, the more I am spoken of, the more light it brings to my cause, regardless.
The thing is to get people to think.
“One of these days and it won’t be long,
Goin down to the valley, gonna sing my song.
Gonna sing it loud, gonna sing it long,
Let the echo decide if I was right or wrong.”
courtesy Bob Dylan,
Joe from Canada
thank you so much for writing all of this down. what a terrible thing to have so much love and hard work be taken in completely the opposite way that it was intended, what a heartbreaking, exhausting burden to bear. i love your heart and your mind Jane, thank you for your tireless effort to serve and bless and love. to push forward and to not give up even in the darkest hour, even in the face or our own humanity or the unfair and grotesque accusations of others. you are an inspiration and wonderful example of how to live life to its potential. much love always, Heather
I never was an extremist and have always been uncomfortable with extremist rhetroic; regardless of the belief. That having been said I am a Marine Vietnam Veteran who is proud of his Vietnam and Marine Corps service albeit small and insignificant.
I got out of the Corps in 1972, returned to school and got a Bachelor’s Degree and started a teaching career. By 1980 I had a Master’s Degree and had a family and was well entrenched in a teaching career, which like my Marine Corps Service was insignificant and far from earthshaking. In 2004 I retired from teaching and the following year started working for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
In 2006 my wife and I took in my Vietnam buddy’s granddaughter who, at age 12 was floundering in school and life in general. We thought we could make a difference in her life. The adoption
was final in 2009 and less than a year later the adoption failed. She wanted foster care more than she needed a mother and father. She wanted to be handed to rather than to earn. So, Jane I guess we do have something in common: the adoption of a daughter. I hope your experience with adoption fared better than ours.
So as the saying goes “let no good deed go unpunished”. As a result of this experience we are estranged from her, our church and from my buddy. So if we’re looking for a negative legacy of Vietnam in my life there it is. My wife and I are looking at moving on and living our dream. So our negative experience with adoption and its fallout make me sympathetic with your 1972 Hanoi experience and the misinterpretations and misbeliefs that followed it. I read your blog in its entirety and find myself in sympathy with what happened because the same thing happened to my wife and me with our daughter–nobody was willing to listen to us or give us the benefit of the doubt. So for what it’s worth one Vietnam Veteran in his own small way sympatizes with you. It’s been over for almost 40 years. It’s time to put it behind us.
So, Jane, I hope you read this post, and maybe even find it eloquent. I do hope that over the years you have met
many Vietnam Veterans like me who have moved on and have made something of our lives and have done something to disprove that unfortunate shortlived genre of films that protrays us as drug crazed psychos because I suspect if somebody cared to do the research they will find that the majority of Vietnam Vets have succeeded in life and those begging by the side of the road are for the most part frauds. I’m starting to ramble now so I had better close.
I wish you well.
I agree that you are absolutely within your rights to make this statement. However, I am within my rights to not believe half of it. I think this is sour grapes and complete spin control. It is absurd to have us believe you could distinguish right from wrong over the US GOV’T. You know you shouldn’t have went there now, virtually being blackballed from Hollywood. (It’s really a shame because you’re a well spoken, beautiful woman) But, we all live with our decisions…….
Lance, interesting what you bring up: “how could I know more than the U.S. Government?” Well, it isn’t a question of knowing more. They knew everything that I only found out about in the same ways American citizens find out things that our government doesn’t want us to know. Take Watergate, for instance. The government (Nixon’s administration) tried everything they could to keep us from knowing what they did and it was all to vilify Daniel Elsberg. He had been working for the government with the Rand Corporation. Finally he’d had enough because he thought it was wrong that the government was keeping from the public things we needed to know about the war and so he released the Pentagon Papers. Clearly you didn’t read them. what they reveal is that 5 U.S. administrations–Republican and Democrat– knew they couldn’t win the Vietnam War and yet they kept sending our men to fight, die, and be traumatized in that war. A lot of it was so they could be reelected. A lot of it was because they just couldn’t be the ones to admit defeat. The soldiers on the ground were the ones who paid the ultimate price for these presidents careers and self-image. I didn’t know more than the government, no, but I acted on what the government knew and didn’t want us to know. I went into the National Archives in Maryland and gathered the transcripts of the secret conversations that had been taped between Nixon and his administration and I published them (the ones concerning the escalation of the war when Nixon was determined to convince the American public that he was ending the war. I read the boos written by the POWs that stated when the torture in the prisons stopped. I didn’t make this stuff up. I have admitted the things I did that were wrong. I have been apologizing for almost 40 years. The accusations against me are lies. It is my right to set the record straight and to expose government’s lies. It should be your responsibility as an American citizen to do your own investigating. Oh, and p.s….I have not been “virtually blackballed from Hollywood”…just to set the record straight.
Hey Lance, it’s people like you that ARE the problem. Undying allegiance – that’s insanity. Think Nixon.
However, young, free spirits are allowed folly in my book, otherwise we don’t hear the fire. We, like those in the govt, are just people, and we ALL have a past.
Jane said how those guys are like us guys and vice versa, and the few tell the many where to go to get shot, and they go.
Thing is, the US govt are puppets, yet the public retain the right to freedom of speech.
The lady is wise enough to print your comment and respond.
Think about it.
Funny how after 40 years this stuff still bothers you. You’ve certainly moved on since then, had a successful career, made a comfortable living, became a mom and all.
I just wonder why you now feel that you have to explain the actions taken so long ago?
Why does the hatred of a bunch of old men bother you?
What bothers me, Rip, is that lies and distortions about me and my trip to Hanoi continue to circulate and some people believe them and it continues to reopen the wounds of the Vietnam era, not just for me but for servicemen and their families. In my opinion, we must try to stop hurtful lies from being spread
Ms. Fonda, thank you for your reply.
When you went to North Vietnam in 1971, you had just won an Oscar. You came from a family that was, and still is, a Hollywood and Broadway legend.
Because of your previous experience with publicity, some people may be skeptical about your unknowingly being used by your North Vietnamese handlers.
I think that this may be part of the reason why your explanation may fall short for those who still carry wounds from that historical epoch.
I admire you so much for opening up about such a tough subject. It takes real courage to stand up and tell the truth. I guess it was hard for you, too, to talk about these things but it’s really important to say the truth. Once again, all my admiration and love goes to you. Not being American, I’ll probably never be affected by this subject as much as someone from the U.S. but I also feel the emotional weight of it. However, there’s a desire for peace in all of us. I only know that there shouldn’t be wars and people shouldn’t be killed for whatever reasons. This sounds a bit cheesy, I know but that’s what I’m standing up for.
I send you all my love and support. God bless you!
Great commentary in The Washington Times
Google – The Washington Times Kuhner
I believe that was last week, prior to my blog about Hanoi. I have not found it but was told it was last week.
What a beautiful detailed post — loved that you document with foot notes.
I remember all this — I was a teenager in high school at the time — and remember it was all very confusing and seemed terribly one-sided. I felt as though we were being manipulated and now we know we were.
I wore a POW bracelet — remember those? (Still have it). I was against the war but very much in support of the troops, a nuance that placed me solidly in the minority in Oklahoma City. Sitting in Sunday school class and being the only person out of 17 who questioned why we were in Vietnam was lonely, especially when ridiculed by the so-called “Christian” teacher. You and so many others — a high school history teacher who encouraged us to think for ourselves, service men who were speaking out — gave me courage to take that stand.
As the Dalai Lama says open hearts create open minds, and I’ve always thought your open, generous heart is what has led you to act with such courage. You are honest, you try to do the the useful thing. You are mindful and thoughtful and you are human, unafraid to let people see you are human.
Making mistakes is a human thing we all do and many many never acknowledge when they do. If those who revile you cannot see your inner beauty and humanity and accept and appreciate this — even if they disagree with you — then its possible they are living shriveled lives, detached from their own humanity, walled up behind hate and fear — pitiful.
Blessings and joy to you, Jane, and know you are not alone. Standing with you! — Shauna, Oklahoma City, OK
I didn’t even have to read this again to agree with you. I read this years ago in your book. I just hate that you have to keep defending yourself. We Love You 🙂
every-one Knows I’m no fan of Hanoi Jane, But ever-1 has the right to be heard an have their day in court! what ever their intention’s were (right or wrong) All I will say is This article is worth reading. an was posted to facebook to AMERICAN VETERANS FOR GOD AND COUNTRY
Thanks for the post, Jane. I was there, 1968-69. But we’re all Vietnam veterans, those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties. I think you know as well as I that the “Hate Jane” movement is never going to fade. We all deeply regret some of things we did when we were young. At this long last there is nothing more to forgive, but I do understand. Peace of heart.
This is really a fantastic piece of writing and I would love to see this published in a national magazine. I was born around the time of these events and growing up never had parents or family who perpetuated the “Hanoi Jane” myth. As I’ve gotten older I see many folks of a certain age who hold on to this myth like a Miss Havisham to her wedding gown in “Great Expectations”. They wear it with a sad sort of pride that has no basis in reality. I can’t say I understand the psychology of perpetuating myths such as this, but I am certainly grateful you are here to state your case on the record. I just wish folks would open their minds and their hearts to take it in. If they don’t, I suppose there is nothing you can do but to state your case. Perhaps there is great power and strength in doing just that. Thank you for this enlightening testament.
I have sent QVC an e-mail, and think this is one way to show OUR support and OUR reach:
(TO QVC this monring) “Read-up. Get the truth. Take a stand.
You have lost not just one customer in Chicago, but over 1500 people from my facebook, including my networking friends and Twitter, my Condo bldg of another 400 people, and my reach to over 200,000 of our customers from my job. After hearing about cancelling the Jane Fonda appearance because no one at your company had the guts to say the truth, and succumbed to extremists trying to boycott Jane. You still have time to stand up. This is a cliche, but those who stand for the truth will in the end prevail. This is an incredible opportunity for you to do the right thing. In fact, the show will probably get more viewers than with any other product if Jane is allowed to come on and speak the truth about her visit to Vietnam, and how the photo came to be, as well as the Nixon Administration and how they set out a PR campaign to ruin Jane just because she was anti-war (which MANY Americans were); against the idea of drowning and starving 200,000 Vietnamese (civilians included). Read-up. Get the truth. Take a stand and don’t be rolled over by the threats.”
So Michael Benge Lied?
Who is Michael Benge?
Michael Benge was in Vietnam, and had some decidedly unfavorable comments concerning you and your trip and your statements, which he expounded on in a FrontPage magazine interview in 2005.
Here are some links. He says he was being tortured even as you visited, and he shared his great disdain for your comments saying torture was no longer being done in the prison camps, and accusing those who said it was, of lying.
This guy may still be around. He may deserve a personal contact from you to relate your story.
BTW, I have myself been a hare’s breath from being critically misunderstood as to my motives and actions, and I was just lucky no one was there to take pictures.
I have confidence in your motives and your patriotic feelings — as they attach to the CITIZENS of America and the world.
The GOVERNMENT itself can go hang, when it is in fact treasonous, as it was during Vietnam.
Dan, all the books I have read by the POWs themselves–the most hawkish of them, in fact– state clearly that torture in North Vietnam prisons stopped in 1969. in the early 2000s, Mike McGrath who was head of the POW/MIA organization at the time told Roger Friedman, then a reporter for Fox News, the same thing–no torture after 1969.
This is starting to remind me of the ongoing ‘debate’ between evolutionary scientists and those who believe that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Some people will NEVER let the facts get in the way of a good prejudice.
I have to say that until I read this story, I too believed the lies that were jammed down our throats by MSM and others. So, I am the one that owes you an apology. Not that my views ever swayed anyone. It is important that we all get on the same page with you and understand that we all need each other in some way, we are all here for a reason. Thank God for people like you that try to stand for the right things. I have always enjoyed your career as an actress, matter of fact, On Golden Pond was one of the best, still enjoy China Syndrome as well. It is important, particularly nowadays, that we all come together for the common good. Be well and thank you for your contribution.
I was in the US Air Force assigned to Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971. I have no direct information about POWs or many of the other details in your post, but I can speak directly to the character of those running our country and those reporting the news during that period of time.
I am perfectly sympathetic to the idea that when you are embroiled in a war, you need to be careful to not give aid and comfort to the enemy by your words, but this can easily get carried to extremes and the final result can be that this type of idea is used to misrepresent the truth to the world and has the impact of people forming their opinions and actions based on lies.
Let me relate some specifics that may make this more clear. I was not a big fan of the war, in fact, I would not have gone when I got my orders if jail or desertion were not my other two main options. I did some (self initiated) volunteer work in the orphanages around Saigon and later Da Nang and got to know the problems or Vietnamese orphans intimately. I was disheartened by how few were the resources the nuns running the orphanages had to care for so many hurting kids. There were days when there were two bars of soap to share between over 500 children and meat was a part of a meal for these children no more than once or twice a month. Malnutrition was rampant. In my mind, I compared how little aid the US was giving these orphans (virtually zero) and our rhetoric about how we were helping the Vietnamese fight for their liberty and the well-being of their people. Did these poor kids, some of whom had lost their parents due to the our bombs, not count as people? I became convinced that we were in that war for other reasons, but it was NOT for the benefit of the Vietnamese people.
In my office near the end of the runway at Tan Son Nhut, I had the questionable privilege of watching the coffins of American soldiers being loaded on air transport every day. I knew they were soldiers since each was covered with an American flag. Sometimes there would be ten or twelve, sometimes over a hundred. I believe that this was only one of two bases where bodies were shipped back home (the other being Cam Ranh Bay) at the time. I was able to compare this observation with what my hometown newspaper reported about the total number of American soldiers reported to have died that day. These newspapers were provided to us soldiers by the US armed services as a “morale” boost. At the time I watched the bodies being loaded, our newspapers were reporting two to five lost a day. The dishonesty sickened me and did not make me very proud to be an American. Where did these numbers come from? I attended the briefings the intelligence center at Tan Son Nhut (I believe it was called MACV at the time) gave to newspaper reporters (I had a top secret clearance). The second lieutenant would say things like: “The total soldiers killed throughout Vietnam yesterday was three.” The reporters wrote this down and called home with the numbers at the end of the briefing. It is hard for me to believe a reporter would not know what all those coffins that were flown out every day meant. It is also hard for me to believe that our top intelligence officers couldn’t count over five.
One more vignette. One day I was riding around Saigon in a taxi with a friend when we noticed a lot of excitement over at the US Embassy. We joined the mostly Vietnamese crowd to watch. Nearby, an American intelligence operative in civilian clothes was working with Vietnamese intelligence officers. (I had learned by that point to recognize these sorts of roles.) They were hiring Vietnamese spectators to hold signs that the intelligence officers were writing for them so they could stand in front of the embassy and be photographed. Of course, one of these photographs appeared the next day in our newspapers under the headline: Large Vietnamese Rally in Support of US Troops. I was friendly with a number of Vietnamese civilians and I had a pretty good feel for how most Vietnamese civilians felt. Most did not like the communists. Most did not like the US presence in Vietnam, either. They did what they had to do to survive. To get these kinds of pictures, you had to either pay people or intimidate them.
I believe this pervasive dishonesty and misrepresentation of truth had a lot to do with the loss of support within the US for the war, especially towards the end. I suspect many Americans would be shocked to read what I have written here. Is this kind of thing still going on? I have reason to believe it is, just not quite as heavy handed and blatant.
Before reading your post, I had a negative feeling towards your trip to Hanoi and consequently towards you. I see the honesty and truth in your words. Your words in your post have made a convert out of someone who has at least a little bit of direct experience to filter these ideas through. Maybe someday we will all learn that war is never an answer to human problems, and only compounds them.
Much love and hugs to you, my dear,
I am a former Air Force Academy cadet (1971-1972) who became active with Vietnam Veterans Against the War during the fall of 1971 which led to my dismissal from the Academy in July 1972. I remained active with VVAW for another year in the Denver area. I now hold lifetime membership in VVAW, having rejoined in 2003. I am also a member of Veterans for Peace. Ms. Fonda, you were a voice I listened to then and I, to this day, have great respect for you. I have never had any reason to question your support for our troops or our veterans.
As a veteran, I thank you!
Ms. Fonda – I have just read your post and found it enlightening. You know, I remember your trip and the follow-up publicity about it. What came across to me then, as a teenager, is that you were without a doubt one of the most incredibly naive people I had ever seen in a public position. This posting of yours, now written in hindsight, would seem to support my initial impression.
That being said, I think it is important that the facts surrounding your trip be made public, as you have done, and let people today make their own assessments. My family knew John McCain when he first ran for Congress from Arizona and while I did not then nor do I now support the man, it would appear to me that his claims regarding you are grossly exaggerated, especially considering comments made by fellow survivors about his actions.
So this brings me to a question I have for you now: You were one of the first of the prominent celebrities from Hollywood to make an impact on the political scene at the time. We now see it permeating our entire political process – the idea that actors and actresses can make more of impression on the voting public than actual politicians. I find myself wondering if politicians had to stand on their own two feet and explain themselves, rather than have scripted appearances by friendly celebrities do their talking for them, if we would not have a more accountable government. Do you think that by making yourself such a public spokesperson for a political cause that has had such far reaching, generational effects, that perhaps you opened a Pandora’s Box that has deprived the American people of accountability from politicians and a willingness by the American people to be entertained with faux news when delivered by entertainment celebrities, rather than actual objective journalists?
You were naive, no doubt, in 1973. Perhaps that was the greatest damage your trip to Hanoi did – you showed the American parties that they could create a political spin so pervasive that they could destroy honest journalism which had held them accountable for nearly two centuries, and have personal repercussions for you nearly four decades later.
Vanessa Emma Goldman
thanks so much for posting this, Ms. Fonda. i have always figured there was more to this story than we usually get from the mainstream Capitalist propaganda media. i can’t believe that people still hate you after all this time, but some people just don’t want to get it and never will. and so the US Establishment continues to fight unjust and unwinnable wars, trying to impose its will on other people. and then comes the pathetic cry of “why do they hate us???” gee, i wonder why?
anyway, you did the right thing then and you are still doing the right thing now. and i love you for that, and i don’t care what the haters have to say.
“you may say i’m a dreamer, but i’m not the only one, i hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will live as one.”–John Lennon
peace and love to you, lovely Ms. Jane!
–Vanessa Emma Goldman
There’s alot of stuff that happens on the internet that feels really intense. What is happening to you is happening in alot of parallel ways concerning current events. These “trolls” post the same debunked story over and over, usually line for line. As far as I am concerned, they are just a continuation of cointelpro. I believe much of it is not real. It is only meant to stoke the fire in order to, as usual, divert attention from the real war criminals.
It is obvious that you care, because you take the time to explain it rather than blowing off the criticism. I find it disingenuous for people to behave as if they don’t get that.
When I was 13, I instigated a school walkout to protest the invasion of Iraq. I had no idea what I was doing, but my dad told me I was a “Jane Fonda”. He didn’t mean it politely. I didn’t know who you were but I knew who your dad was and really liked his movies. I later found out who you were when I played Corie Bratter in a college play. I had again been compared to Jane Fonda, but in a much more positive light.
So, I went to the library to find some of your movies. When I was very little, I always watched your dads movies when they were on TV because I liked the sound of his voice. The thing that struck me the most was how much your voice sounded like his. I watched every movie they had at the library.
The strong distinct voices you and your dad shared represent the same passion. The gulf between your generations was in identifying who the fascists were. That same gulf is now appearing between mine and my fathers generation. Perhaps it will always be that way, or perhaps with each generation we get closer to routing them out for good. As a group, we’ve gone a little deeper down the rabbit hole this time.
My context for understanding you has always been that of being anti-war. You helped give women a voice in this matter. Now, people my age simply grow up without thinking about it.
Dear Ms. Fonda,
I am so glad you posted this message to all of us. When my younger brother was released from the US Marines in 2003 after 9 years of service, he told me the story verbatim how you have described it here, with the torn pieces of paper and soldiers social security numbers. As he told me the story, he was so passionate about it so whomever told it to him must have been very persuasive. I was horrified to say the least! I too am anti-war and cannot understand why people assume anti-war means anti-soldier. At any rate, I am so thankful you have posted this because I always knew it was Bull***t! You are such a beautiful and amazing actress and by the way hilarious too! Keep on Keepin on Jane, we stand behind you 100%!!!!
Your friend in Concord, Ohio
I am a former Air Force Academy cadet (1971-1972) who became active with Vietnam Veterans Against the War during the fall of 1971 (which led to my dismissal from the Academy in July 1972). I remained active with VVAW for another year in the Denver area. I now hold lifetime membership in VVAW, having rejoined in 2003. I am also a member of Veterans for Peace. Ms. Fonda, you were a voice I listened to then and I, to this day, have great respect for you. I have never had any reason to question your support for our troops or our veterans.
As a veteran, I thank you.
I joined the army in 1967 for three years, believing I would be sent to Viet Nam. But I spent over 2 1/2 years in Baltimore and was able to march in the two biggest anti-war marches this country has ever seen. Got gassed by cops in one. Only the army career people wanted the war. I loved shoving it in their faces. I’m a soldier and I have a right to protest. Go ahead, argue with me. Great job Jane.
I admire your persistent effort to stay with the,
“Truth will Out” approach. I wish you well.
I was a “civilian” worker for the Agency for International Development (USAID) working in a provincial hospital in “South” Vietnam from 1965-thru Oct.1967 in My Tho S. Vietnam. I had been in the Peace Corps Philippines VIII group teaching school in Northern Luzon in the Philippines the two previous years (1962/64). I have always been very careful not to give the impression that I am a veteran of any sort. During the first two months of my 2 year stay in My Tho we had a visiting doctor from Texas (part of an AMA program to sponsor visiting physicians from the US). One evening while returning to our living quarters the good doctor allowed as how, he “could not understand the young draft resistors who were refusing patriotic service in Vietnam.” I responded by asking how long he would need to be there to understand why they might be resisting? He took what I had said to Saigon to repeat it to my superiors in Saigon. My immediate supervisor months later defended my views by insisting that Saigon bureaucrats would need to remove himself before he would conscience my removal from his staff in the province.
The perverse influence of “stupid” permeates a lot of the population in the US. It did NOT begin nor did it stop in 1965. Likewise the pervasive trauma that US society suffered due to US policy in Vietnam did not end with the war in Vietnam. You have a lot of stupid to overcome with your truth, so be warned you have a lifetime of explanations to offer forth.
You cannot do more than express your regret and sadness over actions you took so long ago. American’s questioning why our government does what it does is part of the definition of being American and the rights we have fought to maintain more than two centuries. We still question our current policies abroad and at home.
You were an important part of a national discourse therefore you will always be associated with it and those times. You were not promoting self interest in what you did then; it was a discourse on where we were going as a nation.
Sadly however, there is again much vitriol being splashed about in our land and though you may explain and apologize for you actions, there will always be those who are unsatisfied. The sad part is your life today being affected and altered because of personal attitudes. Everyone has the right to not watch, read, tune-in or listen to you or anyone. Creating personal vendettas is another story – how sad and un-American is that? Bad use of energy – certainly better to volunteer one’s time at a V.A. hospital.
+Jane, Thanks for giving the world your version of what happened during that dreadful war. Only last week I received another widely circulated email about the horrors of “Hanoi Jane.” I have always believed your version but had no resource to justify my belief until now. However, even if – please don’t misunderstand me – even if what those emails are saying about you were completely true – and again this is “even if” – the harm you would have caused would have been absolutely nothing compared to the death, destruction, agony, horror, political turmoil, etc, etc, that was directly brought on the military of the United States and the people of Vietnam by Nixon, Kissinger, McNamara, and the other idiots in that administration. Stay your course. It takes integrity and moral fortitude to stand up to the continuous onslaught of lies and distortions. Thanks for being willing to put yourself on the front line.
I heard that only 3 of the boys in my large graduating class survived VN. Like the others, I joined the Army also, but went for airborne Special Forces training. Eventually, realizing what I was part of, I became a pacifist, knowing that such a horrible means could not create a good end.
I now work to end all war, poverty, and all the rest of the increasing horror of our social insanity, not just in the USA, but all over the globe. I am a active member of the Zeitgeist Movement, now half a million members strong globally.
When you made your trip, I was already out of Special Forces and merely trying to survive my remaining military slavery. I was active in the GIs United Against the War in Viet Nam. Later I joined the Farm Spiritual Community, which was also trying to address the destructive insanity of our culture.
I was surprised to see the picture you are talking about, but even then I knew that the media lies by policy, that money and jobs were on the line so they lied. Nothing since that time has actually changed, because the money system is a major force in continuing the insanity. We hope to get rid of it when the time comes and create a resource based economy (RBE) based upon non-coercion, and end poverty and most violence.
Our species will not survive the continuing ecological devastation of our insane money driven culture. The logic of money is not the logic of survival. Humanity is the cause of the largest mass extinction event since the Asteroid that wiped out the Dinosaurs, and unlike that event, we can stop it. A new paradigm has emerged, a new set of terms to think in, based upon scientific discovery.
We consider politics and religion irrelevant, since they are purely virtual, and will simply fade away in times to come. We do not accept dogma and do not make plans for the future beyond what is already possible. The future emerges, regardless of what we think, and to plan is to fail to adapt. The real Law of Nature is ‘adapt or die’ and it’s time for our species to understand and accept that. Only two forces actually can create a future that will be better… the scientific method applied to social concerns and the built in dynamic we call Compassion. These are our greatest survival characteristics and the only ones that can save our species.
You are welcome to join us although that is not absolutely necessary. Please read and watch our videos and documents online and do what your feel is right. We are not monolithic or doctrinaire. Everything is completely volunteer.
The Zeitgeist Movement is just one response to the new saner paradigm that is emerging. Whatever you chose to do along those lines is going to have a great impact upon the whole world.
See you online.
Peace and Good Health,
Roan Carratu ([email protected])
Dear Ms. Fonda,
Thank you. For standing up. For speaking out. For owning mistakes. For graceful apologies. For sharing pain and spreading joy. For learning and growing and giving love and light. You are a beautiful example for women across cultures and through generations, and an inspiration to both me and my daughters.
Dear Jane Fonda:
The “Vietnam Era,” as it is called, is still very real to me, as I was well into adulthood then. I remember the confusion that developed among those of us who had to take the news of the day and make what we could of it. We didn’t have the leisure you enjoyed to travel around to gain the knowledge you had access to. There were so many excessive actions all around. Of course the burden lies on the government and the military. Lies to make the public accept war is common practice, but somehow it’s all the people have to go on sometimes.
I accept and share your conviction that we must separate our abhorrence for war, and the liars who promote it, from the men and women who do what their country asks of them. As you point out, they labor under the same lies that cloud the judgement of the American people.
I have to take at face value . . . and do . . . your statements of your intentions and reasons for what you did, though I am aware of the ever-present need of human nature to tidy up the edges of our past. I do wish you hadn’t posed for that photo with the Viet Cong soldiers. It has been the sticking point for me all these years.
I lost a very dear young brother in the Vietnam War. His name was Jacob Finley Siratt, and he died in Quang Nam Province on July 19, 1968. He had turned 20 on July 15 that year. So, you’ll understand how difficult it has been for me to reconcile my feelings about the “Vietnam Era.”
Well, bless you, Jane.
Beverly, I am sorry for your loss. I understand why it is difficult to “reconcile your feelings.” I, too, wish I had not sat in that terrible seat. Thank you for telling me your thoughts and feelings. Peace, jane
I must have missed your comment while I was signing up to make my own. You spoke to the point I wanted to emphasize so much more clearly….
“I accept and share your conviction that we must separate our abhorrence for war, and the liars who promote it, from the men and women who do what their country asks of them. As you point out, they labor under the same lies that cloud the judgement of the American people.”
…that I must thank you for your wise and gentle understanding. I spent three tours of duty between 1961-66 as a USN pilot, joined the VVAW upon being discharged from the service, and remain actively opposed to unConstitutional wars being used to affect political and economic ends to this very day.
You serve the memory of your beloved brother well, and I would be proud to call you Sister.
Thank you Jane.
Veterans for Peace – Tallahassee
Vietnam Veterans Against the War – Tallahassrr
I have always admired you, Jane. Did you ever talk with Charlie Clements?
Your succinct and honest explanation proves that your voice is one that remains relevant, and still needs to be heard.
I especially appreciate your point that the flawed policies our government too often pursues, both then and now, must not be blamed on the lower ranks of our uniformed military services.
I am a Vietnam Vet and registered with your site so that I could comment on the QVC but more importantly the Hanoi Visitation. I was a medic in Vietnam in 1969 and like many other vets, learned of your visit after my return home as it was front page news.
I have read the accounts of your visit over and over again since the seventies and your current responses. I am not a hate monger who is trying to spread stories about your visit. Charges and counter charges do nothing to resolving the feelings of hurt and yes, anger from the vets.
Regardless of whether the photos were staged or real or your motives to sing were just innocent or on purpose, this forum will never be able to answer…regardless the photos alone hurt us at a time when we were already spat upon by our fellow americans.
I was at the BEA in NYC this past May and wanted to go up and talk to you. I was, at the time, dressed in my Army Dress Blue Uniform and was at the show to try and promote my book. As I waited in line with a crowd of people, I was stared at with looks that I had NOT seen FOR 40 years…at the airport in Seattle/Tacoma when I headed home to NJ after returning home from my tour of duty.
After standing there in line for about 15 minutes, I turned about and left, not wanting to cause what I felt would be a controversy between the audience and myself
The truth of the North Vietnam visit will only be known to you, the POWs that you visited and to God. I will only say to you that those pictures of you on the anti-aircraft gun hurt us like no North Vietnamese bullet ever could.
Thank you for allowing me to express my feelings and that of many other vets
Have you ever thought (you may have done this already) of contacting the head of the Vietnam Pow Association or whatever group and asking to come to one of their meetings to talk and or apologize. Also to set the record straight. They may tell you to stuff it but then who knows. We’re friends with the Vietnamese, heck last week our respective navies did joint manuevers with each other’s ships. I think it is the biblical thing to do, though it would be hard. But if you tried and were rejected than it becomes their problem as my wife always says and they own it not you. I need to ask your forgiveness as I have held ill feelings toward you all these years based on lies that I have heard and totally believed. I come from a military family and have served myself so I am always defensive and supportive of our military. I don’t always agree with our military by the way, but I know the heart of the troops serving and they mean well.
Hi Jane. Just a quick note to say that I am in full support of anyone or action that reduces murder perpetrated in the name of any political convenience.
It is in the same desire for honesty that I must add the following. We Americans deserve the apology from you for your actions in N. Vietnam. The results of your visit there did no soldier any good, nor did your actions lessen the price paid by Americans for that military involvement. You should not have gone there at all because you were insufficiently prepared for what you would find there. Your actions were jejune at best and you allowed yourself to be used by the N. Vietnamese as well as the U.S. and anybody else to spin it to their benefit.
I hope that I am wrong, but it seems to me that whenever your acting career sags or you have an upcoming media event, this story resurfaces and you spin it to make yourself appear like someone that mainstream audiences should want to invest in. In that case Jane, being financially mercenary is way worse than simply being a young self absorbed beneficiary of Hollywood nepotism back in the ’70s.
Please leave international diplomacy to professional Diplomats.
Loved ‘Cat Balloo’
We have always loved you and your movies. Perhaps it may be time to consider doing a documentary, about going back to Vietnam with some people who were prominent US civilian or military leaders at the time? It might straighten out the perspective. Westmoreland died I believe, but Kissinger is still active I think?