Cover image for Home to war : a history of the Vietnam veterans' movement
Title:
Home to war : a history of the Vietnam veterans' movement
Author:
Nicosia, Gerald.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Crown Publishers, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
xi, 690 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780812991031
Format :
Book

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Central Library DS559.62.U6 N53 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

An epic narrative history that chronicles, for the first time, the experience of America's Vietnam veterans who returned home to fight a different kind of war. The courageous Americans who served in Vietnam fought two wars: one on the other side of the world and one when they returned home. The battle abroad took place in war-scarred Asian hamlets, rice paddies, and jungles where thousands of Americans risked life, limb, and spirit in a conflict few of them fully understood. The second war began when these same soldiers came home to face another fight, this one for the hearts and minds of their countrymen, and for their own health, sanity, and peace of mind. Home to Warpresents a vivid portrait of a generation of American warriors who faced rejection by the nation in whose name they fought and virtual abandonment by the government that sent them to risk their young lives in Southeast Asia. In spite of formidable obstacles, including the still-fresh physical and mental traumas of the war, these young veterans joined together and committed themselves to heroic battles on the home front, from their unsung role in the antiwar movement to their unflagging campaign for medical help and compensation for Agent Orange exposure and post-traumatic stress wounds. Home to Wartells the gripping stories of these veterans and the social and political movements they inspired. In its pages you'll meet Jan Barry, a disillusioned former West Point cadet who founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a volatile organization that would become a lightning rod for controversy and a beacon of hope for returning vets; Al Hubbard, a charismatic former Black Panther who led thousands of angry veterans to the steps of the nation's capital to protest the war and the government's shabby treatment of its veterans; Ron Kovic, whose outrageous -- and courageous -- stunts, uncensored comments, and provocative politics drew needed attention to the cause; Dr. Chaim Shatan, whose pioneering 'rap groups' speeded the psychological healing process for countless vets; Victor Yannacone Jr., who launched a precedent-shattering -- and ultimately successful -- legal case to gain compensation for veterans harmed by Agent Orange exposure; and many others whose inspiring struggles served themselves, their fellow soldiers, and their country. Home to Waris a passionate work of contemporary history and an essential addition to the literature of America's Vietnam experience. Encompassing some thirty years of activism, readjustment, and healing, it is a fitting tribute to the unbreakable courage, idealism, and decades-long endurance of this generation of American soldiers.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

There were no rousing banners or parades waiting for Vietnam veterans when they made it home. Instead, their fellow citizens and their government spat them on, both literally and figuratively. They had to deal with their own opposition to the war, mistreatment at the hands of the Veterans' Administration, the often overt contempt of their fellow citizens, and the aftereffects of Agent Orange and post-traumatic stress disorder, which would not even enter into the medical terminology until after the war ended. Underlying all of this was the continual and clear reminder that as Vietnam veterans they were the only Americans ever to have lost a war. These issues would result in higher than normal rates of suicide, homelessness, joblessness, and substance abuse. Nicosia has effectively collected and narrated the stories of individuals who fought their first war for their government overseas and their second war against that same government, which wanted to turn away from them once they got home. Nicosia also recounts vets' battles against Veterans' Administration hospitals and treatment centers, which treated them as less than human, and against the war itself, which many vets felt was both wrong and a lost cause. There were some victories, however, most notably the founding of the Vietnam Veterans against the War and the Vietnam Veterans of America, the eventual definition and acknowledgment of post-traumatic stress disorder by the medical community, and the extension of benefits to children of veterans sickened by Agent Orange. Although these victories were often slow in coming, they were still victories. Marlene Chamberlain


Publisher's Weekly Review

A former draft resister who felt he had "a moral duty not to fight in Vietnam," Nicosia (Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac) interviewed some 600 men who did take part in the war and who then became active in the antiwar movement, or later worked as veterans' advocates. The result, after a decade's worth of work, is this sprawling, politically charged, personality-driven book. Nicosia takes the story beyond the antiwar years, but concentrates on detailed re-creations of the actions, during the war, of antiwar veterans primarily the leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the often fractious, vehemently antiwar group. Nicosia spins a riveting story at least for the first 300 or so densely packed pages. He clearly empathizes with VVAW leaders such as Jan Barry, Larry Rottman, Scott Camill, Al Hubbard and Ron Kovic (of Born on the Fourth of July fame) all of whom are vividly and compellingly portrayed. And that is the book's main problem, as well as one of its strengths: Nicosia writes with passion, but barely a whit of dispassion, about VVAW's sometimes inspired, sometimes haphazard actions and of the group's turn toward anarchy and ultra-leftist politics, while other, less confrontational Vietnam veterans and groups get short shrift. Long, fine-grained chapters on the Veterans Administration's shameful postwar record on Agent Orange and on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) tell an important story, but won't be for everyone. It's difficult to envision anyone even remotely concerned with the subject reading this deeply informed account without having an opinion about it the mark of an important book. (May 1) Forecast: Nicosia's aim here seems to be as much advocacy as history and he succeeds at both. This book should generate discussion, and consequent sales, as the Bush administration undertakes a review of the military and its compensation packages, particularly since Gulf War syndrome issues are so analogous to those faced by vets exposed to Agent Orange. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

The frequently heroic, more often tragic saga of the veterans who fought in the war and then fought against it is told in this gripping narrative, which takes hold of the reader with its haunting cover and doesn't let go for almost 700 pages. While not a vet himself, Nicosia (Memory Babe: A Critical Biography of Jack Kerouac) spent ten years compiling 600 interviews to write the definitive history of this little-understood movement. The Vietnam Veterans Against the War was the most prominent veteran antiwar organization, but it was only one of many loosely bound coalitions that often fell prey to petty internal jealousies and government trickery. During the war, the veterans were known for such prominent gatherings as Operation Raw, a mass protest held at Valley Forge Park in 1970, and Dewey Canyon III, a memorable event held the following year in Washington that culminated in vets returning their medals to the government in disgust. As Nicosia movingly relates, the greatest struggles followed the war, as veterans battled for years to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and cancer-inducing Agent Orange recognized as maladies related to service. The tales of the famous and unknown heroes of the movement fill the pages of this War Without Peace. Highly recommended for all public and academic Vietnam-era collections. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

From Chapter One: Coming Up with a Politics: Vietnam Veterans Against the War 1. Six Vets and a Banner He was twenty-three years old and had not yet taken his pen name of Jan Barry. He was moderately tall, gangly rather than muscular, and with his long nose and lank dark hair looked something like a pensive Henry David Thoreau. He was, in short, nobody out of the ordinary in that crowd of 50,000 antiwar protestors marching through New York City on April 7, 1967. Since he wore a suit and tie and tan raincoat, there was no way to identify him as a Vietnam veteran, except by inference, since he was marching along with a small, ragtag bunch of guys -- none of them in uniform -- who carried an impromptu painted banner that read vietnam veterans against the war! The irony was that at that point there was no such organization -- just a hastily improvised slogan that a few guys chose to identify themselves with. But within two months there would be such an organization -- Vietnam Veterans Against the War, known more popularly as VVAW -- and Jan Barry would be its founder. The organization would put Richard Nixon into a panic, provoke FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover into breaking the law in order to destroy it, precipitate the last major conspiracy trial of the era, and bring to prominence at least one leader of national stature, John Kerry, who would eventually become the junior United States senator from Massachusetts.( 1.Interviews: JBC, 1,2,3; MS. Documents: FBI files on VVAW, 1968-1977, received through Freedom of Information Act) And the man who had founded it -- far from becoming a household name -- would be forgotten. His real name was Jan Barry Crumb, and he had been born and raised in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. He had been to Vietnam in 1963 in the U.S. Army's 18th Aviation Company, at a time when the United States was not even supposed to have a military presence in Indochina other than "advisors." Upon his return, he enrolled in West Point. But he was deeply troubled about what he had seen in Vietnam -- especially what he perceived as the utter callousness and disdain of the American military toward the human needs of the Vietnamese people. He resigned from the academy in November 1964, feeling completely alone, unable to believe that anyone else felt as he did. To finish out his enlistment he was sent back into the Army, to an installation in Alabama. In spring 1965, the civil rights movement was in full bloom as Martin Luther King Jr. led 50,000 protesters from Montgomery to Selma, and it opened Crumb's eyes a bit further to the injustice in America. That same spring, 22,000 American troops were dispatched to Santo Domingo to save the Dominican Republic from "Communism." Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam took a quantum leap when the Marines landed in Da Nang in March. Jan Crumb did not yet know there was an American peace movement, but when he got out of the military, he went in search of what he called "some other way." It took him two years to find that other way. He lived in New Jersey for a while, then moved to Manhattan and began working for a newspaper. He left the paper for a job at the New York Public Library, where his coworkers were mostly university students. One day, in March 1967, he heard some of them talking about a big peace demonstration that was scheduled to take place on April 7 outside the United Nations. The day of the demo, he met with a group of friends, planning to attend it in their company. It was a momentous day in his life for more than one reason -- he would meet his future wife, Paula, in that group. Jan Crumb was not the only Vietnam veteran in attendance at what was being called the Fifth Avenue Peace Parade. Prior to the event, a group of less than a dozen vets had gone to the Peace Parade Committee's office to announce that they would like to be featured prominently in the march. When asked their affiliation, they had answered simply that they were "Vietnam veterans against the war." Some worker in the office who had a good sense for publicity immediately made them up a banner with their phrase in bold letters, as if it were a title. (2. Interviews: JBC, 1; BR, 1.) The demonstration was starting off in Central Park, and when Crumb arrived there, he heard someone say, "Vietnam veterans to the front." So Crumb said goodbye to his friends and walked toward a large contingent of older veterans wearing blue overseas caps that read veterans for peace. At the head of that group was a handful of guys his own age, six of whom were in the lead with the long vietnam veterans against the war! banner. Behind these Vietnam vets was a scattering of their wives and children. Crumb did not know any of the Vietnam vets, but he took his place among them, at the very front of the parade. In those days, a lot of people in the country were still furious about antiwar protesters, and Crumb worried that there might be snipers lying in wait for them along the route -- or at the very least, counterdemonstrators. Sure enough, as the parade moved along, groups of construction workers began to hurl construction materials at the marchers. They did not throw anything at the veterans, however. He was relieved, but also intrigued by the immunity their military service had apparently earned them. When the marchers reached the United Nations, the group of Vietnam veterans disbanded. Curious about who their leader was, Crumb inquired among some of the older Veterans for Peace, who led him to a VFP meeting. There, Crumb learned that there was no group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War; that in fact the marchers who carried the banner had hoped that it would draw other Vietnam vets to join them -- which, except for the arrival of Crumb and possibly a couple of others, had not happened. By this time, however, Jan Crumb was convinced that there were a sizable number of Vietnam veterans against the war, and that they should exist as a real organization. He took it upon himself to make that organization a reality. Crumb began tracking down some of the Vietnam veterans who had marched in the April 7 Peace Parade, or who had come forward later to express their interest, and by Memorial Day he had gathered a group of about ten men. This small group went to Washington for a Memorial Day peace demonstration that had been organized by Veterans for Peace. Two days later, on June 1, 1967, six of those Vietnam veterans met in Crumb's New York apartment at 208 E. 7th Street on the Lower East Side. It was the same day the Six Day War in Israel began. The meeting took place in Crumb's kitchen, and from the start there was dissension. One vet was Jewish, another had studied Arabic, and a fierce debate began about the merits of each side's cause in the Mideast conflict. Crumb was quick to perceive that they could not, and should not try to, agree on anything except the one issue that had brought them together -- the need to end the war in Vietnam. Excerpted from Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement by Gerald Nicosia All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologue 1
Chapter 1 Coming Up with a Politics: Vietnam Veterans Against the War
1 Six Vets and a Banner
2 Tear Gas, Clubs, and Confetti: The Chicago Blues
3 Changing Directions
4 The GI Movement
5 Enter Al Hubbard
Chapter 2 Shared Nightmares: From Operation RAW to the Winter Soldier Investigation
1 On the Road to Valley Forge
2 A Spokesman Emerges: ""Lincoln and Kennedy Combined""
3 War Crimes Testimony: Fonda, Lane, and ""Brands of Swiss Cheese""
4 Breaking Down in Detroit: ""I Didn't Know W

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