Revolution 250 Podcast

Battle Green Vietnam with Elise Lemire

October 24, 2023 Elise Lemire Season 4 Episode 41
Revolution 250 Podcast
Battle Green Vietnam with Elise Lemire
Show Notes Transcript

In her new book "Battle Green Vietnam," Elise Lemire examines what must be the most controversial anti-war march ever. On Memorial Day weekend in 1971, 400 Vietnam Veterans engaged in "Operation POW" during which the Veterans marched from Concord Bridge to Bunker Hill. Join Professor Robert Allison (Suffolk University Department of Language, History & Global Culture) in conversation with Elise Lemire, Professor of Literature at Purchase College, SUNY.

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 Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Revolution 250 podcast.
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 I'm Bob Allison.
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 I chair the Rev 250 Advisory Group.
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 We are a collaboration among about 70 groups in Massachusetts looking at ways to commemorate the beginnings of the American Revolution.
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 And our guest today is Elise Lemire.
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 Elise Lemire is a professor of literature at SUNY Purchase.
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 the author of a number of books, Black Walden, about slavery and its aftermath in Concord, Massachusetts, and a book called Miscegenation on Making Race in America.
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 And her most, well, the book we're going to be talking about is Battle Green Vietnam, the 1971 march on Concord, Lexington, and Boston, which includes actually the largest mass arrest in the history of Massachusetts.
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 And it's an act of
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 civil disobedience taking place along the route of both Paul Revere's March ride and then the march of the British back to Boston.
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 So Elise, thank you for joining us.
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 Thank you for having me, Bob.
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 It's nice to be here.
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 So it's a fascinating story.
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 And I'm just wondering how a professor of literature got involved in a book about the Vietnam veterans against the war and the protest in 1971.
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 Yes, that's a good question.
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 Thank you for asking that.
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 I grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and I'm a proud graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School.
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 But I will say that growing up in the late 60s and early 70s, my family did not talk about the Vietnam War.
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 It was something I was very much sheltered from.
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 I met a man who grew up on a military base in Okinawa, an American military base, while his father commuted to the Vietnam War.
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 And so when I saw a picture of
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 of a young man wearing fatigues, rushing onto the Lexington Green, followed by other veterans in fatigues, their arms raised in the peace sign, I thought, wow, the Vietnam War did come to my backyard, essentially.
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 I didn't know about this march that took place in 71 when I think I was seven or eight years old.
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 And it was for me an opportunity to put our two childhoods together.
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 And that's really where it started.
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 But also I think that picture for me was just so shocking because what I had seen up until then, of course, were
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 historical reenactors and tricorn hats carrying muskets on the Lexington Battle Green.
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 I had never seen, quote unquote, real soldiers, you know, because the historical reenactors, of course, are not.
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 But these young men who came to Lexington and were arrested had been to Vietnam, had fought on behalf of their country.
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 And in wanting to say that that war was wrong, they thought the best place to come and make that stand to make that statement
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 was in Concord and Lexington, and I wanted to know why that was.
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 And they'd already done something similar going from Morristown to Valley Forge.
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 That is, they were connecting with the story of the revolution as they were protesting the Vietnam War.
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 Yes, and that's really...
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 the beginning of a very important turn in VVAW's history.
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 VVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, started in 1967 as a speaker's bureau.
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 They were turning soldiers who now veterans would put on suits.
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 They had short hair and they would go to different debates and take any speaking opportunity they could.
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 But when that really wasn't garnering them any attention,
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 they decided to begin to mobilize these important american spaces and it was really a a new executive director who got this idea because so many young people were turning to guerrilla theater in the wake of kent state for example and so yes operation r-a-w or ra which is how the vietnam veterans felt of course it's also a reversal of the word war barge from morristown to valley forge and
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 During that three-day march that took place over Labor Day in the fall of 70, they decided that they were winter soldiers.
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 Of course, this is their response to Thomas Paine's essay about sunshine.
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 They had been mobilizing these important American bases really since the fall before they came to Concord and Lexington in the spring of 71.
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 So it's Memorial Day weekend in 1971 when they planned this and
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 And the plan is to go from Concord to Bunker Hill and then have a rally on Boston Common.
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 And I should say, too, that they had had another very successful protest in D.C.
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 over Patriots Day, the month before they conquered in Lexington, and that's when
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 VVAW, again, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which at this point had chapters across the country, decided to occupy the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
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 Now, the New England chapter of VVAW, which had an office right off of Harvard Square, had funded a large portion of that protest through
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 donations that they collected from wealthy suburbanites up in the greater Boston area.
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 And it was on the bus home after attracting so much attention during the week that they occupied the National Mall that they decided they would use the first three day Memorial Day weekend to try to have another long, multiple day marches they had done to Valley Forge.
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 And that was where they came up with the idea to reverse Paul Revere's ride.
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 That's interesting because this is also the time when we are changing from a standalone holiday to a three-day weekend.
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 So that makes this possible.
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 It was an opportunity for them to have a multi-day march.
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 And of course, multi-day marches have been so important in world history.
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 I mean, think of Gandhi's march, think of the civil rights marchers.
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 When you carry out a multi-day march, you're creating an opportunity to be seen by as many people as possible, but you're also showing your dedication to your cause through your own bodily exertion day after day.
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 So they had this three-day opportunity, but they also knew that,
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 that they were very uneasy with what Memorial Day had come to mean.
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 They saw it really as a glorification of war.
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 And of course, having fought in the Vietnam War and having learned that it was a war they could no longer support, they wanted to have an alternative to Memorial Day.
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 And that was really the genesis for the three day march that unfolded.
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 So they begin in Concord and the plan is then to go from Concord to where on the first day?
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 Well, we should first point out, although all your listeners will know this, that in deciding to reverse Paul Revere's ride, they decide to use Longfellow's poem as their script.
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 And of course, Longfellow's poem has some historical inaccuracies, including its assertion that Paul Revere makes it to Concord.
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 And of course, as a Lincoln-born girl, I know that he did not.
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 He was captured in Lincoln.
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 They decide to start in Concord because they're following Longfellow's poem as a script, but also because it allows them to mobilize another memorialized battlefield.
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 And the plan over the three days was to be seen at four of them and Concord was therefore important.
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 And of course the reversal of Paul Revere's ride is really for two reasons.
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 The first being an important symbolic message, which is we were,
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 going in the wrong direction as a country.
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 We had become the British oppressor.
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 We were enacting an imperialist effort in Southeast Asia, but also because if you're having a march, you want to have lots of people join you at the end, better to have them join you in Boston on the Common as opposed to in Concord.
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 That's true.
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 That's true.
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 So they start off then, how many are involved in the march when it begins?
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 Well, interestingly, they had advertised and they had spoken with the press and there was a lot of press coverage about the march before it started because of their success in D.C.
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 And they had thought that 300 veterans would come.
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 When they begin and conquer it, it's not nearly that many.
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 I mean, it's fewer than 100.
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 But when the Lexington Select Board decides that they won't allow the VVAW marchers to use the Lexington Battle Green in any capacity, that quickly spreads both through word of mouth, but also by the press.
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 And more and more veterans show up as the march goes on.
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 So by the time the march is as far as Bunker Hill, there are over 200 veterans.
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 And I noticed we'll get to the arrests in Lexington, but there are a lot of civilians, it seems, who are also part of the arrestees, that is, citizens of Lexington or Concord who had come out in support of the marchers.
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 So you just showed a picture on the screen for those who are joining us on Zoom or YouTube.
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 in which the Vietnam veterans embark from the Old North Bridge.
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 And one of the things they did was they had a lot of veterans who participated who were recuperating in area VA hospitals.
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 They always volunteered to go first, to display their wounded bodies for everyone to see, to make the point that on the one hand, that they spoke with authority and that they had been patriotic citizens in giving so much for their country.
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 but also to show that the myth of the American soldier who's never hurt was not true.
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 But once the citizenry saw the sacrifices they had made, saw the wounded, and also heard that they were not going to be welcome in Lexington after all they had done for our country, a lot of the liberal citizenry rallied behind them and certainly already
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 residents of Concord and Lexington and Lincoln and Bedford were supporting them even before the march began by arranging meals that they would cook and serve veterans.
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 But as the march progressed and it became clear that they were not going to be welcomed by the select board, nor the police in Lexington, more and more people came until eventually there were over a thousand people on the tiny little Lexington Battle Green.
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 So what was the reason that the Lexington Selectmen didn't want them using the Lexington Green?
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 Yeah, I mean, that's the big question, right?
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 Well, first of all, I just want to point out that the Select Board in Concord had to work with the National Park Service in deciding whether they would allow the gatherings to use the Old North Bridge.
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 Now, we all know you're not allowed to camp in the National Park, in Minuteman National Historical Park.
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 But NPS had learned a lesson when the veterans tried to occupy the National Mall and the federal government secured an injunction trying to kick them out.
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 And the American public was incensed at that, the majority of the American public, because that was no way to cheat.
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 wounded and Vietnam veterans.
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 So NPS, working with the Concord Select Board, knew they didn't want another publicity snafu like that.
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 So they gave them permission to have an all-night meeting, not to allow them to camp, although they did sleep.
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 But the Lexington Select Board, of course,
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 The Lexington Battle Green is not part of NPS.
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 It's not part of the National Park Service.
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 It's governed by the town of Lexington and there's a 1923 bylaw that stipulates anyone using the green has to secure permission from the select board.
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 I say selectmen in the book because that was the term used back then, but it's not anymore.
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 I think that while the select board did in the public meetings that it held,
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 about the veterans' requests, while they did cite concerns about littering, about alcohol use, about where people would use the restrooms, those were problems that they overcame every single April 19th and every single other national holiday.
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 So those were never very convincing arguments.
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 I think it's I think it's fairly clear, at least to me, that they felt very responsible for protecting what as Americans we consider a sacred space.
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 And I mean, these battlefields have been memorialized in very specific ways.
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 We we visit them in a very sort of sacred set.
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 We go to them.
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 And it's really where chronological time
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 disappears and we reenter the sacred time of 1775.
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 And we do that by going with a certain mindset, by watching a historical reenactment.
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 And because the Vietnam veterans were repurposed, on the one hand, they wanted to say, of course, that they were the new Minutemen, that they were Paul Revere, that they were patriots who had served and risked their lives for their country.
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 But the minute they mobilized those sacred spaces, I think something else began to happen that maybe they hadn't anticipated, which is that they revealed some of the myths that we tell each other at these spaces, right?
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 That we won the American Revolution because of our preparedness, right?
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 We had Minutemen.
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 because we were people who were very intelligent.
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 We came up with an optical semaphore system in which to warn each other about the approaching British.
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 But the minute you put
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 war-wounded and war-traumatized Vietnam veterans in these spaces, that myth really blows up, so to say, in the sense that you remember, well, of course, war is really about.
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 It was really a contest of mutual injury.
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 So I think the Select Board was acting in good faith.
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 They wanted to protect that space and keep it in the perpetual sacred time of 1775 and not allow
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 current political issues to really sully or desecrate this sacred space.
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 So again, I think they were acting in good faith.
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 Yeah, that's interesting.
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 We're talking with Elise Lemire, who is a professor of literature at SUNY Purchase and the author of Battle Green Vietnam, the 1971 March on Concord, Lexington, and Boston.
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 And there's been...
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 you profile six of the men who were involved as well as telling the overall story of this, which is really quite a
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 Fascinating story, again, and leads then to the largest mass arrest in the history of Massachusetts on Lexington Green when they do go on to the Green.
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 Not only the veterans, but then their citizen supporters who are from towns all across Massachusetts, as well as Rhode Island, Connecticut, a couple from New Jersey.
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 All of the New England states are represented among those arrested on May 30th of 1971.
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 Yes, and thank you for reminding me to mention that in addition to the New England chapter of VVAW, there was a chapter in Connecticut, there was a chapter in Rhode Island, and both of them sent their membership to join with the veterans in that march.
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 It was very much of a broad New England effort.
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 And it was a successful effort because over the course of that weekend,
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 pictures of the veterans were splashed across all of the regional newspapers and even around once the arrests took place, even around the country.
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 So I think this
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 this decision the veterans made to present themselves as the brothers of our forefathers and mothers was a very smart move on their part because when you are a veteran and you oppose the war in which you fought, and let's remember, no returning veterans had ever done that in our history, they were accused by many of treason.
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 So it was important to show that protest, dissent,
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 And ultimately, of course, in their case, civil disobedience are the highest forms of patriotic participation in the nation's life.
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 So it was very successful.
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 A lot of people spent an inordinate amount of time in the weeks before preparing it.
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 It's a huge effort to pull off something like that.
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 And of course, civil disobedience is something that we know happens in Concord.
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 You've written a book about Walden.
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 And so that is part of the spirit.
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 And Thoreau certainly saw himself as part of this same trajectory of opposing things that were unjust.
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 And you're right.
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 They are considering themselves patriotic in the highest degree.
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 Not only were they veterans of the armed forces, but then they were questioning the government's policies as a way of... You said the country's going in the wrong direction.
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 It's not that we want to stop the country.
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 We're not trying to overthrow the country.
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 We're trying to get it onto...
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 the right direction.
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 And that's really important that they weren't anarchists, for example.
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 They wanted to profess their love of country.
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 And their main point, of course, was that we had become the British and we are meant to be the colonists.
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 We're fighting on the side of liberty.
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 I know an officer who does training and he conducts staff rides.
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 And when he does Lexington and Concord, he reminds the current officers that you now are the British if you're fighting anywhere.
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 And this is what probably what should have been the experience in Vietnam.
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 And in fact, they do as a way of showing what was happening.
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 They reenact atrocities that were done or the
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 We know about the brutality of war, particularly in the last couple of weeks, we've gotten real examples of this.
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 And so they are doing it in a way that's less perhaps sanitized than the reenactments you see on the battle green or at the Concord Bridge.
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 And I'm glad you mentioned their their use of guerrilla theater, because this is an important part of their goal over the three days.
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 I mean, the idea, again, with a multi day march be seen by as many people as possible.
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 present themselves as Paul Revere, bringing a message to the people, this war must stop, we must have an immediate withdrawal from Southeast Asia.
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 But also to show
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 to bring the war home is how they put it, to show what was happening in Vietnam to the citizenry.
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 Now, of course, what's difficult when you're an American GI sent to South Vietnam in this time is that you're both fighting a regular army from so-called North Vietnam, because of course the United States split the country in half, or the international community does that.
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 But also you're fighting guerrilla fighters in the South who very much want you to get out of their country.
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 So the American GIs found themselves daily in a kill-or-be-killed situation, and the results were just horrific.
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 I mean, My Lai is the case that most Americans know of, but according to VVAW, these atrocities were daily occurrence, and they were part of or as a result of standard operating procedures.
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 So when the veterans set out from the Old North Bridge
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 on Saturday morning, their first stop is Memorial Square in Concord, of course, where the Civil War, the beautiful Civil War obelisk is that rises out at the center of that large grassy expanse.
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 And they've already asked, they've already worked with young civilian volunteers and they've planted them there and they're strolling around pretending that it's a nice Saturday morning and they're going to go shopping on Main Street.
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 And then all of a sudden,
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 those members of BVAW who have planned to do so in advance come running out from behind the buildings, brandishing M16s.
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 And the M16 that Mattel made back then was very realistic looking.
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 It was true to size.
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 It was also plastic.
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 The M16s were plastic.
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 And it made a very realistic sounding noise.
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 So, of course, this was absolutely terrifying for anyone to see.
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 Now, most of the grownups were aware of...
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 VVAW, who they were, what they had done in D.C., where they also carried out guerrilla theater.
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 But for little kids, actually, it was completely terrifying.
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 You're showing a really interesting screenshot from the film.
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 And I did want to mention that VVAW was working with a large number of young people who were all very interested in making films at the time.
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 There were these new portable cameras they could use.
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 And when Hart Perry, the young man from Columbia University who was orchestrating this film, went back to New York City to edit it together, he decided to splice together a close-up of the message on the Civil War Memorial in Concord, which says, faithful unto death.
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 with an image of one of the young VVAW members aiming and firing an M16 with the message being that, well, you should be faithful unto death if it's a just war.
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 And again, Vietnam is an, VVAW is an anti-war group, but they do believe in just wars.
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 I don't wanna speak for all of them, but I guess I would say,
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 Clearly, they believed the American Revolution was a just war, but they completely rejected that message when it came to Vietnam.
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 So again, mobilizing these different memorials is a way to get their message out.
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 Right, right.
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 We're talking with Elise Lemire, professor of literature at Purchase College and part of the SUNY system, author of Battle Green Vietnam.
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 And then when they get to the Lexington Green, very interesting thing they do with the M-16s.
 21:46.210 --> 21:48.192
 It's in the film.
 21:49.252 --> 21:49.533
 21:49.593 --> 22:03.124
 So when they get to the Lexington Battle Green, they decide to make a circle around the green and they take turns dancing into the middle of it and discarding their weaponry and a display of their rejection of war violence.
 22:03.264 --> 22:09.510
 And they then continue to carry their M-16s first to Bunker Hill,
 22:10.117 --> 22:16.642
 And finally, on the last day, they enact another mock search and destroy mission at Faneuil Hall.
 22:17.262 --> 22:32.334
 And finally, when the march ends and they arrive on the Boston Common, sort of aware that they'd made the front page of the news, but I think perhaps still surprised by the number of people who were really struck by their act of civil disobedience.
 22:32.774 --> 22:36.577
 There were something like seven to 10,000 people waiting for them on the Boston Common.
 22:37.057 --> 22:50.550
 And at that point, the veterans had pre-planned that they would destroy the M-16s, again, the toy M-16s, but the very realistic looking M-16s in, again, a demonstration of their rejection of war violence.
 22:51.050 --> 23:00.699
 And this becomes very cathartic for those men who participated, the ones I interviewed and others who were interviewed by the Lexington Oral History Project.
 23:01.192 --> 23:08.578
 talked about that as being the first time that they'd really been able to cry about what they had seen and learned and done in Vietnam.
 23:08.678 --> 23:14.762
 And it is interesting to think about how well so many members of VVAW have done.
 23:14.782 --> 23:17.584
 I mean, I'm not saying they don't have PTSD.
 23:17.624 --> 23:18.285
 They do.
 23:18.865 --> 23:23.629
 But I think another thing that's worth noting about this march is how healing it was, because
 23:24.451 --> 23:30.960
 These were young men, many of whom came home and their parents did not want to talk about what they had seen or learned in Vietnam.
 23:31.639 --> 23:36.260
 When VVAW comes together in its Harvard office, they have each other to talk to.
 23:36.520 --> 23:42.721
 They have rap groups where they try to process what they've been through and how are they going to think about it and what are they going to do.
 23:42.821 --> 23:55.963
 But watching thousands of people on Boston Common silently watch and pay respects to what they'd been through and cry with them was, many of them said, very healing indeed.
 23:56.323 --> 23:59.464
 And you are showing a picture right now of the veterans
 24:00.004 --> 24:02.165
 underneath the Bunker Hill Monument.
 24:02.205 --> 24:04.746
 And you can see how many of them there are in this picture.
 24:04.806 --> 24:08.347
 Just, again, as I said at this point, about 200 of them.
 24:08.627 --> 24:15.349
 And here they're making their plan that morning for the final bit of the march into Boston.
 24:15.389 --> 24:26.453
 And it's worth saying that as VDAW knew it was going to be well-received in Concord and Lexington because they'd done so much fundraising there because there were so many liberals who lived there.
 24:28.206 --> 24:39.325
 After they were arrested and they finally make their approach to Bunker Hill, they were very uncertain about how they'd been received because so many more young men from Charleston
 24:41.022 --> 24:46.624
 were drafted and were forced to serve than the wealthy kids of a Concord and Lexington.
 24:46.864 --> 24:57.508
 So they thought that maybe the residents there would be much less welcoming and see them as undermining morale.
 24:57.528 --> 25:00.069
 So how were they received in Charlestown?
 25:00.329 --> 25:03.651
 So to their great delight, they were received with open arms.
 25:03.711 --> 25:10.173
 And in fact, in the film footage of it, and I did want to mention that there's a wonderful documentary about the film made by
 25:10.553 --> 25:12.155
 one of the organizers, Bester Cram.
 25:12.215 --> 25:16.980
 It's called Unfinished Symphony, Democracy and Dissent, and it is available on Amazon Prime.
 25:17.341 --> 25:26.430
 And in the film footage there, some of the camera people catch up with John Kerry as he's approaching Charleston.
 25:26.511 --> 25:26.951
 And he's...
 25:28.593 --> 25:33.576
 He's very, Charlestown, he's very surprised at how welcoming everyone was.
 25:33.656 --> 25:41.900
 But this really, to me, speaks to how successful VBAW was in establishing their patriotism by using these memorialized spaces.
 25:42.460 --> 25:50.945
 And on the Monday morning of Memorial Day, in that picture you showed where they're making their final plans for the day, people are bringing them coffee and donuts.
 25:51.761 --> 25:56.983
 So, you know, they again, it's just they were able to capture the hearts of the entire nation.
 25:57.184 --> 25:57.744
 Right, right.
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 Thank you.
 25:58.284 --> 26:05.987
 We're talking with Elise Lemire about her book, Battle Green Vietnam, the 1971 march unconquered Lexington and Boston.
 26:06.448 --> 26:12.650
 So let's just go back for a minute to Lexington because you have 400, almost 400 people arrested there.
 26:12.690 --> 26:13.411
 I'm just wondering,
 26:14.131 --> 26:18.733
 about that process and what the capacity in Lexington is to hold 400.
 26:19.434 --> 26:21.434
 I don't know if they have a jail that big.
 26:22.155 --> 26:23.255
 They don't have a jail that big.
 26:23.275 --> 26:24.916
 They don't even have a jail in Lexington.
 26:24.936 --> 26:31.339
 Well, I suppose they have enough to lock a room in the Lexington police station to lock up a few people, but certainly not enough for 400.
 26:32.059 --> 26:33.380
 What becomes interesting is that
 26:34.329 --> 26:39.810
 When the veterans left Concord, they had voted on Friday night to commit civil disobedience.
 26:39.850 --> 26:43.491
 They were told by the selectmen, don't go on the battle green.
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 They voted to proceed nonetheless, thinking that, well, okay, they might get a ticket, right?
 26:48.972 --> 26:51.073
 Because it's a bylaw, they're violating a bylaw.
 26:51.493 --> 26:54.714
 But they discussed the fact that maybe they'll be arrested for trespassing.
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 What they learned when they show up on the battle green at around dinner time on Saturday,
 27:00.186 --> 27:23.703
 is two things one a local lawyer had decided to help them and had gone to middlesex county court in concord to talk to the judge who was a personal friend only to discover some lexington police office there police officers there filling out disorderly conduct paperwork even before the veterans acted in a disorderly way so they then knew they really could be arrested
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 Also, that night at dinner, they were served an injunction by the selectmen, which meant they definitely would be arrested.
 27:32.365 --> 27:36.147
 They wouldn't just be tried in Middlesex County Court.
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 They'd be tried in a higher court.
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 So the stakes become quite high, especially if you're a young person.
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 You're thinking of graduate school or a job.
 27:45.331 --> 27:48.952
 I mean, this is a pretty serious problem you're facing.
 27:49.333 --> 27:51.854
 But again, the veterans vote to proceed.
 27:53.092 --> 28:02.299
 Behind the scenes, the Lexington Selectmen ordered the town to empty its garage, its town garage.
 28:02.359 --> 28:04.380
 It's, you know, word for that.
 28:04.420 --> 28:06.062
 I guess in Lincoln, we call it the town garage.
 28:06.342 --> 28:07.302
 28:07.322 --> 28:12.566
 With the place where they store all their trucks, their plastic, empty that of all so that they would have a jail.
 28:12.586 --> 28:13.087
 28:13.911 --> 28:18.113
 Now, what becomes interesting is the injunction says they have to get off the green by 10 PM.
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 Well, it's 10, it's 11, it's 12 and people are thinking, oh, they're, they're going to let it go.
 28:23.817 --> 28:25.198
 They're just going to go home to sleep.
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 So why at two in the morning?
 28:28.165 --> 28:29.966
 We decide to carry out a mass arrest.
 28:30.026 --> 28:42.069
 It just really doesn't make sense except for the fact that the select board felt it was their duty as patriotic citizens to reset the clock of the battle green at 1775.
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 And they felt they needed to really cleanse it of these contemporary political issues.
 28:47.530 --> 28:49.291
 So, yeah, 400 people get arrested.
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 They get picked up on buses and sent over to the town garage where they're held not quite overnight because it's already early in the morning.
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 And then Concord District Court opens on a Sunday because they can't hold these people much longer.
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 They don't have the food.
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 They don't have the facilities.
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 So they're held overnight.
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 Then they're bused back to Concord to Middlesex Court where they plead guilty of breaking the bylaw.
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 And then they're fined $5 each for being on the green.
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 But what's interesting is that the people of Concord
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 watching the veterans go into court, busload after busload, collected the funds to pay that fine for them.
 29:33.568 --> 29:42.258
 Again, it's just another moment for the veterans, a very healing moment to feel that they were welcomed as veterans and they were welcomed as anti-war veterans.
 29:42.924 --> 30:12.266
 interesting interesting uh five dollars in 1971 is different from five dollars today right the judge said the judge said it was the uh the cost of a night's lodging and you know so that's not a big number to us today but i did there was one young vietnam vietnam veteran i spoke to who was very young at the time who said he didn't have five dollars yeah yeah so i think we were we're talking with elise lemire author of battle green vietnam the 1971 march on concord lexington and boston
 30:12.759 --> 30:25.282
 talking about the ways the Vietnam veterans against the war repurposed these monuments to kind of make their story, tell their story, tying it in with the story of the American Revolution.
 30:26.343 --> 30:29.423
 I'm just wondering what they do next.
 30:29.483 --> 30:34.605
 I mean, do they continue using these historic monuments as places of
 30:37.318 --> 30:41.421
 demonstrations, civil disobedience, public education, whatever we want.
 30:41.822 --> 30:42.042
 30:42.562 --> 30:51.510
 So they do, they do think VVAW as a national organization absolutely continues to mobilize national symbols to make its point.
 30:51.550 --> 30:59.697
 So for example, they occupy the Statue of Liberty and the shot of them hanging the American, a large American flag upside down.
 31:00.445 --> 31:05.207
 from the brow or the crown of Lady Liberty is a very famous photo.
 31:05.247 --> 31:06.948
 It was taken from a helicopter.
 31:07.008 --> 31:09.349
 And they also had the flags at the base.
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 They were flying upside down.
 31:11.369 --> 31:13.650
 Upside down, right, which is a sign of distress.
 31:13.710 --> 31:14.831
 Our country is in distress.
 31:14.851 --> 31:16.111
 We have taken a wrong turn.
 31:16.131 --> 31:19.753
 We need to go back to our origins and remember who we are supposed to be.
 31:21.313 --> 31:24.035
 And they also occupied Betsy Ross's house.
 31:24.115 --> 31:25.775
 I mean, they do a few other things.
 31:25.835 --> 31:33.919
 But at this point, VVAW has succeeded in making it very difficult for President Nixon to continue the Vietnam War.
 31:33.979 --> 31:38.321
 I mean, he would have liked to drop a nuclear bomb on Southeast Asia, frankly.
 31:38.821 --> 31:42.323
 And he would have liked to, and did for a time, ramp up the air war.
 31:42.896 --> 31:52.479
 But by the time 1975 comes around, obviously, you know, the war ends and the Vietnamese take Vietnam for themselves and the Americans lose the war.
 31:52.499 --> 32:08.745
 And at that point, VVAW turns its efforts towards its members and their mental and physical health and has worked tirelessly on making sure they have the right care for the VA and also on making PTSD recognizable
 32:09.878 --> 32:20.364
 to therapists and psychiatrists and really we have PTSD as a term and it's in the DSM because of their efforts.
 32:20.765 --> 32:21.245
 32:21.570 --> 32:26.472
 And also, of course, I should mention that if anyone's, many have, if you haven't been, you've seen it.
 32:26.492 --> 32:29.954
 You've seen the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
 32:30.294 --> 32:32.315
 And it's a very different kind of memorial.
 32:32.375 --> 32:38.237
 I mean, it's not the Minuteman statue standing proudly next to his plow.
 32:38.397 --> 32:42.099
 It's not an obelisk soaring towards the sky.
 32:42.239 --> 32:45.860
 It's a black scar in the earth with the names of 58,000
 32:47.621 --> 33:12.079
 americans who died for you know a war that we shouldn't have been fighting and that really is because bbaw did mobilize the memorial war landscape that we had and and made clear that this was not the american revolution and that we needed to remember this war in a very different way that's really as a result of their efforts as well right now i've uh
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 lived in South Boston for 30 years where we have the first Vietnam War Memorial in the country that is a list of the 25 names of the young men from South Boston who went to war and did not come back.
 33:23.439 --> 33:34.404
 And it was created by a group of Vietnam veterans who were remembering their friends and they compiled a list and they have on the back, it says on the back, if you forget my death, then I died in vain.
 33:34.664 --> 33:40.267
 And every year at the rededication, Tommy Lyons, who was one of the organizers, a Marine veteran says,
 33:40.782 --> 33:47.867
 that the inscription is not about them, it's not about the past, it's about you, it's about us and remembering this.
 33:48.567 --> 34:02.637
 And you've really shown us how this can be remembered in very powerful ways and how the Vietnam veterans against the war, even as the war was going on, were showing a different way to remember what happened using these monuments of past wars.
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 This is fascinating.
 34:04.591 --> 34:10.694
 Elise Lemire, we've been talking to from SUNY Purchase about Battle Green Vietnam.
 34:10.714 --> 34:11.955
 Is there anything else we should talk about?
 34:11.975 --> 34:14.136
 I think we could go on all day discussing this.
 34:14.556 --> 34:20.520
 I could go on all day just because I have such great admiration for the members of VVAW.
 34:20.660 --> 34:25.343
 I mean, I learned so much about what the United States was doing in Southeast Asia.
 34:25.483 --> 34:26.843
 I learned so much about
 34:29.056 --> 34:43.428
 protesting and civil disobedience and the importance not only of talking back to the state, but also of making sure that people know you're talking back to the states and the way in which they were able to work with the media in New England, the way they work with filmmakers.
 34:43.488 --> 34:49.393
 I mean, I've learned so much from them and I'm just, I admire them as great, great patriots.
 34:49.713 --> 34:54.257
 I did just want to follow up on what you were saying about remembering the war dead and mentioned that
 34:54.989 --> 35:07.435
 When the veterans arrived on the Common, and there were these thousands of people there, after they broke their guns and cried their eyes out, they did have a stage that they had set up there.
 35:07.855 --> 35:13.058
 Bonnie Raitt sang, and other folk singers sang anti-war songs.
 35:13.098 --> 35:23.142
 But what I wanted to specifically say is that a Gold Star mother who'd been working with BVAW, and a Gold Star mother is someone who's lost their son or daughter,
 35:24.819 --> 35:36.486
 in the line of duty on behalf of the United States, she got up and read a poem that very much spoke to, if you are gonna remember me, make it a question to yourself, what is my death gonna mean to you?
 35:36.546 --> 35:39.748
 Is it gonna mean death or is it gonna mean peace?
 35:39.868 --> 35:42.929
 And I think maybe we should just close with her because I think,
 35:44.491 --> 35:56.058
 You know, she had lost her son and worked with VBAW both in Washington, D.C., but also during the march from Concord to Boston.
 35:58.285 --> 35:59.906
 Yeah, I mean, it might just be important.
 35:59.946 --> 36:04.029
 It just might be that we should stop by remembering what was at stake.
 36:04.069 --> 36:08.973
 And what was at stake was the loss of so many American lives and the loss of so many Vietnamese lives.
 36:10.014 --> 36:23.324
 And these young men who could have come home from the war and reentered civilian life and enjoyed all of its pleasures, spent a year, more than full time, seven days a week, trying to get the attention of the American public.
 36:23.464 --> 36:24.044
 And they did it.
 36:24.905 --> 36:25.225
 Thank you.
 36:25.660 --> 36:32.305
 Thank you to Elise Lemire, author of Battle Green Vietnam, the 1971 March on Concord, Lexington and Boston.
 36:34.076 --> 36:36.116
 Thank you to all of our listeners.
 36:36.136 --> 36:39.617
 Jonathan Lane, our producer, and every week we thank folks who are tuning in.
 36:39.737 --> 36:46.338
 And this week, if you are in one of these places, send Jonathan Lane an email, jlane at
 36:46.758 --> 36:49.539
 He'll help connect you with what's happening with Revolution 250.
 36:50.579 --> 36:59.060
 So this week, our friends in Philadelphia, New Orleans, New York, and Pensacola, on all places between and beyond, thanks for joining us now.
 36:59.601 --> 37:02.141
 We will be mustered out on the road to Boston.