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Viet Nam Generation Journal & Newsletter

Announcements, Notices, and Reports
V4, N1-2 (April 1992)

This text, made available by the Sixties Project, is copyright (c) 1996 by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., or the author, all rights reserved. This text may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. This text may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is a collective of humanities scholars working together on the Internet to use electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom

Received a photocopied notice of the Rolling Thunder V (registered trademark) Ride For Freedom (May 24, 1992, Washington DC) from Sgt. Artie Muller, US Army Nam 66-67, P.O. Box 216, Neshanic Sta., NJ 08853; (908) 369-5439. Muller's letter:

We have done many runs in the past 4 years for the return of all live prisoners of war and a full account of those missing in action. Our government has chosen to abandon many live American's on the battlefields since WWI. There are over 90,000 men that have never been accounted for and many of them were left to die in some foreign country in a prisoner of war camp.

There has been more done on the issue (POW-MIA) since these runs have started then in the past 15 years. That is because all of you have given much of your time to ride for the freedom of our brothers left behind. Many of you have come across the United States and from Canada to protest the wrong our government has done. The support and sacrifice you have all given for those that can not speak for themselves is real loyalty and dedication.

We can't stop now. We must push on to bring them home. Rolling Thunder V will be a welcome home parade for our POW's return or a mass demonstration. If we all copy the fliers and pass them around to all M/C groups, vet organizations, citizens and ask them to be there for our POW's freedom we will have over 500,000 in Washington, DC as in Daytona, FL for bike week.

We owe a great deal to Col. Millard A. Peck for the stand he has taken against a government that lied to all of us and doesn't give a damn for no one but themselves. Col. Peck is a great example of an American who cares what happens to his brother. When we all ride in protest of our governments in action (sic) on the POW- MIA issue, we ride for their freedom and demand to bring them home now. Every day that passes may be too late for one more POW-MIA. It's too late for some that have died in captivity already. Every American should be there.

Our government has never proven that our POW-MIA's are all dead or alive. We demand an investigation, a search for live POW's in Southeast Asia and we demand they bring them home now. We the Vietnam veterans and all our supporters of the POW-MIA issue want for our POW's what we all have, "freedom." We must never abandon America troops in any foreign country.

We have asked much of all of you in the past 4 years, our brother are almost home. Lets ask everyone to put aside Memorial Day weekend for 1992 and be in Washington, DC for Rolling Thunder V, May 24, 1992. Our war is not over until all our brothers are home. POW- MIA "We will never forget."

An enclosed flier claims that the last Rolling Thunder was attended by 23,000 people. The ride will assemble in the North Pentagon Parking Lot at 9 a.m., and will leave at 12 noon for the ride through Washington to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. There will be speeches and music at the Reflecting pool. If you don't ride, be at the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial at 12 noon. There's a special request that there be "No Attitudes."

I'm sure it will be quite a spectacle. What struck me as amazing about the letter, however, was the incorporation of the missing soldiers of previous American wars into the POW-MIA myth. The number of men "missing" and unaccounted for in World Wars I and II has been pointed out by critics of the POW-MIA crowd in order to put the comparatively small number of unaccounted for American casualties in Viet Nam in perspective. However, it seems to have been appropriated by these guys as a sign that the U.S. government has traditionally left behind live POWs to rot in foreign prisons. Makes your head spin. --KT

Traumatic Stress

Two items from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. A Call for Presentations for the Eighth Annual Meeting, "Trauma and Development: The Shattering and Rebuilding of Human Expectations," a conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Los Angeles, CA, October 22-25, 1992. U.S.A. proposals must be received by April 7, 1992. International proposals must be received by April 17, 1992. the Call is 8 pages of information, with four blank forms tipped in. The cover is a nice grey-on-grey graphic of a view from a tropic beach. Get your own by writing to the ISTSS at 435 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 1717, Chicago, IL 60611- 4067, (312) 644-0828.

The goal of the Society, established in March 1985, is to provide "a forum for sharing research, clinical strategies, public policy concerns, and theoretical formulations in the U.S. and around the world through its membership, its programs of education and training, and its various publications. The Society is dedicated to developing knowledge and stimulating policy, program and service initiatives that seek to reduce traumatic stress and its immediate and long-term consequences. To date, 1,700 mental health, social service, religious, and legal professionals from more than 30 countries have become members." Robert S. Pynoos, M.D. is President.

For this meeting, the Program Committee encourages proposals that address the following areas: trauma and the emerging personality of children and adolescents; developmental perspective on the neuroscience of traumatic stress; the influences of traumatic stressors over the life course of the individual, family, and group; developmental considerations that influence preventive and therapeutic interventions; the interaction of disaster, war and oppression with social, political and economic development; socioeconomic, ethical, and legal considerations.

The conference offers several kinds of forums. For individual speakers, there are Poster Sessions, where the presenter stands by his poster taking questions for an hour, in a room full of other such presenters; Papers Sessions, the familiar talking-head format, are only available for thematically related groups of individual presenters; Clinical Case Presentations; and Discussion Groups. For group proposals, there are 90-minute Symposiums and Two-hour Workshops.

I'm also looking at Traumatic Stress Points: News for the ISTSS. It's four pages, a sheet folded once to 8 1/2 by 11", black and white text. From the President's Message, p. 1: "It has been the veterans of the Vietnam War [he means U.S. vets of the American war in Viet Nam] who brought renewed attention in the U.S. to the psychological insults of war, and who, through their perseverance, have helped to create a national research and clinical agenda, reflected in the establishment of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorders. An unforeseen legacy of the Vietnam PTSD research is its potential benefit for children exposed to violence throughout the world. The methodology, neurobiological discoveries and clinical insights that have grown out of the study of combat exposure have acted as a catalyst to improved studies of childhood trauma. This enriched understanding of childhood trauma is beginning to return full circle to increase our understanding of the interplay of child and adult trauma, including how the reverberations of childhood trauma in some highly exposed combat veterans may compromise their recovery."

Page one also has a mention of the first ISTSS World Conference, "Trauma and Tragedy: The Origins, Management and Prevention of Traumatic Stress in Today's World," June 21-26 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Keynote lectures include Robert Jay Lifton, "From genocidal to species mentality: directions of hope" and V. Sidel, a U.S. professor of public health, on "Primary prevention of traumatic stress caused by war." Another panel will include "representatives of relative United Nations bodies on The U.N. and Traumatic Stress." Contact: c/o ICODO, PO 13362, 3507 LJ Utrecht, The Netherlands, tel.: (+31)(0)30-369312, FAX (+3)(0)30-369037.

On page two, there is a notice of the Dutch ICODO Centre of Information and Coordination for the Services of Victims of War. ICODO objectives: to improve and coordinate the various medical, psychological and legal services for victims of war, and to function as a center of information and advice. They coordinate between five professional organizations for specified categories of war victims, have published 30 brochures and 6 books and uncounted articles for scientists and the mass media. They assist 50 volunteer organizations. Their library catalogue is in process of making international electronic links. Contact Jos Weerts, M.D., The Director, ICODO, PO 13362, 3507 LJ Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Also on page 2, notice of the 1991 ISTSS Pioneer Award to Lawrence C. Kolb, M.D., for his lifetime work including service as Senior Medical Investigator of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Another notice on that page, of the first Laufer Memorial Award to the investigators of the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, principally Drs. William Schlengler, John Fairbanks, Kathleen Jordan from the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, Drs. Daniel Weiss and Charles Marmar from the U of CA SF and Richard Hough from U of CA SD, and Richard Kulka.

Vietnam Veterans Against the War: 25th Anniversary Celebration

We received the following notice from VVAW:

It's hard to believe that 25 years have passed since Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) first lifted a banner in an anti-war demonstration. Veterans, previously unacquainted, united together--eager, war- toughened, bold, idealistic, angry, innocent, young, and filled with the urgent necessity to change the course of history. Our mission was nothing less than to end the war we had fought in Vietnam.

And we were, simply, terrific. We marched, lobbied and communed with each other in politically charged veterans demonstrations and encampments. We defied Richard Nixon and the Justice Department (who sought to discredit us), the Supreme Court and Congress. Yet we welcomed Senators, Representatives, and the American public to our encampments, as we eloquently and viscerally testified to our experiences in Vietnam. The country listened to us as we moved to end the war in a peaceful and dramatic way.

With the help of dedicated professionals, VVAW pioneered work in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, veteran's rap groups, and treatment and compensation for exposure to Agent Orange. As veterans we reached out to war resisters, working with them for universal and unconditional amnesty. In the past 25 years we've provided draft and registration information to thousands of high school students, sharing with them the realities of war and the military. We've continued to speak out for normalization of relations with Vietnam and against misguided American policies, whether in Central America or the Persian Gulf.

Through thick and thin, high times and low, internal strife, VVAW survives with a renewed sense of mission. Now we mark our 25th anniversary and invite you, your families and all our friends to join the celebration of our collective accomplishments and individual contributions to the fight for veterans, peace and justice.

Though the Vietnam War's history has been intentionally rescripted to read as if it was lost through subversion by the media and an anti-war movement whose sole purpose was to spit on returning veterans, we remember a war whose very premise was illegal and immoral, and which was lost through misguided policy and military ineptness. Please join us as we celebrate our collective accomplishments and individual contributions to the fight for veterans, peace, and justice.

The celebration will take place on May 29-31, 1992 in New York City. It will include a concert by Country Joe McDonald, as well as a Saturday morning memorial service and wreath-laying ceremony (not limited to Viet Nam) and an evening unity rally among veterans and peace and social justice activists.

VVAW plans to publish a 25th Anniversary Journal: "Historical--or hysterical--remembrances (250 words max) may be submitted for possible inclusion." For more information contact VVAW 25th Anniversary Committee, P.O. Box 74, Brooklyn, NY 11215; (718) 788-2009.

Viet Nam Generation endorses the VVAW 25th Anniversary celebration. We hope to see you in New York in May.

Journey Home and Tiana Alexandra

Tiana Alexandra was born Thi Thanh Nga in the Republic of Viet Nam. Her grandfathers were Senators. Her father was Director of Press and Information in the government of Ngo Dinh Diem. After the coup he moved with his family to the U.S. His daughter grew up as an American in the 1960s. She took her present name when she became a screen actress. She travelled to Viet Nam in 1989 with a U.S. veterans' group, then went back in 1991 with a camera crew to shoot more than 75 hours of film. Now she is working day and night in the DuArt film studio in Manhattan, where Spike Lee and Woody Allen made their independent films, trying to put a documentary film together in time for the Cannes festival.

Finishing the movie is just a matter of money. There's no lack of great footage to make it from. Alexandra interviewed General Vo Nguyen Giap, once her father's history teacher, and sat on a park bench with Le Duc Tho to talk about Henry Kissinger. She interviews longtime Party boss Pham Van Dong and I bet she would have chatted up Ho if the Soviets hadn't embalmed him so well. Tiana speaks with an elderly aunt and her companion about their life in poverty. She finds an uncle, former Defense Minister Tran Tung Dung, whom everyone thought was dead in a re-education camp. She inspects a factory with Ba Thi, said to have been Ho's lover, now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in Viet Nam. The composer of Viet Nam's national anthem plays a piano improvisation, to a montage of contemporary countryside and DOD bombing films. The composer, by the way, wrote that anthem to help fight the French, but now loathes the tune. He is old now, and says he never plays the same song twice. He uses his elbows a lot on the keyboard.

Viet Nam footage includes Sai Gon, Highway One, the Cu Chi tunnels, Vung Tau, the Me Kong delta, the old Ho Chi Minh trail, Cam Ranh Bay, the home of Giap, My Lai, Da Nang, Non Nuoc (China Beach), Hue, the 17th Parallel, Vinh Ha Long, Hai Phong Harbor, Dien Bien Phu, and Ha Noi. Alexandra visits Amerasians hoping to leave through the Orderly Departure Program, and films a hospital of deformed children. Back in the states, she filmed Tran Van Tra, general of the Viet Cong, at the meeting with U.S. veterans reported by Gil Ott in the Announcements section of this issue. William Westmoreland visited the studio and Alexandra videotaped him trying to explain what he meant when he said that Asians don't value life. The actress also filmed her father, now an author in California, explaining why she should under no circumstances even consider travelling to Viet Nam, let alone make a picture there that might aid the communists. Another uncle on the West Coast says the same, through an interpreter.

I am not reading all of this off a press release. On 1 February I visited the studio with Huynh Sanh Thong and three Viet-American students, young people who all escaped from Viet Nam by boat. Alexandra put us to work dubbing English. She wanted Viet accents, but we ran out of people and I got to do General Giap. It wasn't hard, just a matter of saying to myself, "I beat the French, I beat the U.S., I beat the French, I beat the U.S." Giap grins all the time. I think the part I did will get dubbed over, but the students were a big success, especially with a long speech by Giap's wife, about life in Ha Noi under the bombs.

A poem Alexandra wrote and sent ahead to Viet Nam got her an audience with all the great men. There's a driven quality to her project, a drive for peace and unity after fragmentation, something to do with being an American woman who makes martial arts movies and exercise videos, as well as a Viet child who happened to be standing nearby when a monk incinerated himself on the street in Sai Gon in 1963. She has won endorsement for her project both from Oliver Stone and from the historian Keith Taylor. Stone is a wealthy Yalie who once upon a time thought it would be neat to go kill people for the Stars and Stripes, and still indulges in elaborate whimsy about his national identity. Taylor is an Intelligence veteran who has devoted himself to mastering the documents of Viet history, and whose contempt for U.S. imaginings of Viet Nam would be hard to exaggerate. Both of these stubborn personalities have backed Alexandra's project as a great chance for creating some real understanding of Viet Nam in this country. They both see something in what she wants to do that validates what they are all about. That would make me think she was doing something of real interest, even if I hadn't seen all the exciting footage for myself.

So far, funding for the project has come from such groups as the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation and Vets With a Mission. More is required. If you've got any ideas, contact Tiana Alexandra, Journey Home, 245 W. 55, New York, NY 10019, (212) 765-8250.

Amerasia Journal

Volume 17, Number 3, 1991 (Asian American Studies Center, UCLA) has two articles of direct interest: "About Face: Recognizing Asian and Pacific American Viet Nam Veterans in Asian American Studies," by Peter Nien-Chiu Kiang, of the Graduate College of Education and American Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston (pp. 23-40), includes a mention of Ernest Spencer in the notes; "The Song Sent Across the Mekong," by T.C. Huo, who is "from SE Asia, has a B.A. in English from the U of CA, at Berkeley, and now lives in Oakland," a sensitive story about the narrator's mother, who died leaving her country. Kiang's essay has a photo (by Dean Wong) of Andy Cheng returning home in battle dress from Desert Storm to two women who are awfully glad to see him. The "1991 Annual Selected Bibliography" (pp. 83-169) has abundant cites by and on Southeast Asian peoples and culture in the New World. Some intriguing mentions: "War is Not a Metaphor: Thoughts After Reading Joyce Carol Oates' ON BOXING." Amerasia Journal 17:1 (1991): 107-115, by Robert Ji-Song Ku: "The E(merge)ence of Voices, Vietnamese American Literature: 1975-1990: A Consideration of Transcribed Oral Histories and Their Implications for Co-Written Texts." Senior essay, Yale University, 1991: many others. In Glenn Omatsu's "The Themes of Our Epoch" (pp. 77-82), an introduction to the bibliography, he mentions "the long-awaited Asian-American Comic Book by the Asian American Resource Workshop in Boston." Back issues with previous Annual Selected Bibliographies, going back to 1979, skipping 1981, and combining 1985 and 1986. Each one costs $7, $1 shipping for first and second copies, no shipping charge thereafter. There is also an ad for the Pacific Historical Review, "for more than fifty years, PHR has published articles devoted to the history of American Expansionism to the Pacific and beyond and the postfrontier developments of the twentieth- century American West," $16 individual/$33 institution/$11 students, add $4 postage outside the USA, from University of CA Press, Berkeley, CA 94720. Amerasia Journal is well- edited by Russell C. Leong and Glenn Omatsu. The only Viet name on the Editorial Board is the film maker and critic Trin T. Minh-Ha, who I believe is of an ethnic Chinese family from Viet Nam, though I am not sure. Judging by this issue and from cites to previous issues in the bibliography, Amerasia Journal gives much more than token coverage and representation to topics and authors from all of the Asian peoples, a big accomplishment, especially compared to the limited regional and ethnic scope of many publications that set out to cover even just the U.S. Back issues include 17:1 War and Asian Americans, $7. They have a publication titled Vietnamese Bibliography, $5 paper. Subscriptions to AJ, three issues/yr, are $15/yr or $25/2 yrs for the individual, $25/yr for institutions, UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 3230 Campbell Hall, U of CA, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1546.

Ashley Thompson Writes To Us

Speaking of her studies: Documents, or access to these documents, are controlled by a few battling scholars. So, you have to be on somebody's side to be, that is, on the manuscripts' side. I'm working on this text called "hau pralung" or "invocation of souls." It's a long poem, recited, chanted over the bed of a very sick person, to call back his souls, to make him well again. There's a whole ritual surrounding the chanting, gathering spiders and leaves, widows throwing rice over houses. It's also performed upon the return of someone to his native village after a long absence. Amongst other occasions...

We're going to spend July and August at a research center in Chiang Mai and would like to come up with some good reason to then go down to Cambodia. Some good (or not so good) money I mean. Know anyone who's looking to pay someone (or two) to spend September and October fighting the crowds in Cambodia?...

I'm back in Paris and back to this letter, which will get off by the end of the week when I have chosen which poems to send along. We came home yesterday to your newsletter. Since E. spent all day traipsing through it, I haven't had too much of a chance to do so myself. But from the bit I did read I do have one immediate thought. That writing, that strange Vietnam war peacenik and macho-man all rolled up into one style of writing is at once very familiar and very very far away. It's writing still at war. I read it like an old memory of something I actually wrote in a diary, of something I did once, that is, something I actually read once, but of which I have no personal recollection. All of this simply to say that what I'm sending you now [an essay with poems by Khmer people] may seem very strange. It's something out of my world here now, something very different from America, I think. Most of America, and even most of alternative America. And I welcome that difference, I mean it's really good to have a way, a contained journal kind of way, to get back to America, academia, and thinking about Viet Nam. It is a privileged domain in that elite academia does join hands with working people, in that vets do write poetry. I think however that a female presence in all this talk about the war is possible only outside of the domain itself. I suppose I believe Herr, that once inside the violence turns in on you; you might be able to see it with patience, even delicacy, and in horror you can't get out. I think very very few people reach Herr's degree of clairvoyance in their own repetition of violence; the tragic beauty of his work. I don't mean some women can't write about the war. I mean there are women writing with men within the structures of war, like Herr. And men writing with women outside of those same structures. What I would call a feminine presence is possible, however, only on the outside, with a distant vision of what that is, with a closer vision of other worlds. Within its own logic, Herr's world is inescapable. Other logics do however function beyond. But I seem to be babbling so I will finally sign off. Today is Sunday January 12 and I promise, I promise! to put this in the mail tomorrow. -- Ashley Thompson, 28 Rue Chapon, 75003 Paris, France

Barbara Tischler Writes:

VGN subscriber and contributor Barbara Tischler sent us notice of her own edited volume, Sights on the Sixties, from the Perspectives on the Sixties (Tischler edits this series for Rutgers University Press). The book is a teaching anthology aimed to provide a basis for understanding the historical and cultural legacy of that decade. Contributors Morris Dickstein, Barbara Ehrenreich, Gerald Gill, Gerald R. Gioglio, Jonathan Goldstein, Alexis Greene, Ellen Herman, Glenn Jones, Stephen A. Kent, David Sanjek, Mark Stern, Amy Swerdlow, Barbara L. Tischler, Stephen J. Whitfield, and Clifford Wilcox provide perspectives from American Studies, anthropology, film studies, history, literature, sociology, and theater. Tischler is at pains to show how their contributions each and all go beyond any "good sixties/bad sixties" typology. It's 294 pp. cloth, $38.00, 0-8135-1792- 3. Paper, $14.00, 0-8135-1793-1. June, 1992, Rutgers University Press.

Bill Jones Waxes Enthusiastic

I was very pleased to see my poetry published in the Newsletter. Quite frankly, I had no idea such a journal even existed. [BJ's poems came in via David Willson] I read the damn thing from cover to cover twice and was amazed at the diversity, quality, insight, talent--well, I could go on, but will not. I am sending a check to the Maryland address and look forward with great anticipation to the next issue. Thanks for your efforts.

I am primarily a half-assed cowboy entertainer poet/standup comic/musician/singer who got into this poetry quite by accident. The Vietnam stuff I write with great difficulty but it is getting easier. Contact with other Namvet poets, i.e. Jon Glade, has inspired, encouraged, and your fine publication has made me aware that there are many of us out there wrestling with ghosts. In the Cowboy Poetry movement there is a small group of us that are doing some Namvet things at large gatherings here out West. It has been well received and I am very excited about your publication and subsequent opportunities concerning the cowboy poet/ Vietnam Vet connection.

In connection with Dry Crik Press a War Poem anthology is in the works and I hope to keep you informed of the project for any help you may give with reviews or whatever.

Anyway, I am rambling off the trail like a one eyed steer. Just let me say getting your publication in the mail was absolutely one of the best things that ever happened to me. Thanks. Enclosed is another poem for your consideration. -- Bill Jones, Cowboy Poet, P.O. Box 691, Lander, WY 82520, (307) 332-2641.

See two more Jones poems in the Features section.


A young woman Viet-American college student tells me that Viet men mark their date of conception, rather than their date of birth. A woman, however, dates her life from her time of birth. The student doesn't know why. This is complicated by the practice of backdating a woman's age by one year. She says that her mother told her that this reflects the comparative maturity of a woman relative to a man. Possible confusion is eased considerably because everyone gets one year older on the same day of the year, Tet. My informant came to the U.S. in the late 1970s from Sai Gon, where her family, of mixed Chinese and local descent, has lived for several generations. I'll start naming Viet-American students I know in print when Viet- American gangsters stop shooting political dissenters in their community.

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