Dewey Canyon III: 1971
Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) conducted perhaps their most famous set of demonstrations April 19-23, 1971 in Washington, D.C. calling it Operation Dewey Canyon III.

From Wikipedia:

This peaceful anti-war protest organized by VVAW was named after two short military invasions of Laos by US and South Vietnamese forces. Dubbed "Operation Dewey Canyon III," it took place in Washington, D.C, April 19-23, 1971. Participants said it was "a limited incursion into the country of Congress." This week of protest events gained much greater media publicity and Vietnam veterans participation than earlier events.

Led by Gold Star Mothers (mothers of soldiers killed in war), more than 1,100 veterans marched across the Lincoln Memorial Bridge to the Arlington Cemetery gate, just beneath the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Reverend Jackson H. Day, who had a few days earlier resigned his military chaplainship, conducted a memorial service for their fellows. He said:

“Maybe there are some others here like me--who wanted desperately to believe that what we were doing was acceptable, who hung on the words of ‘revolutionary development’ and ‘winning the hearts and minds of the people.’ We had been told that on the balance the war was a good thing and we tried to make it a good thing; all of us can tell of somebody who helped out an orphanage, or of men like one sergeant who adopted a crippled Vietnamese child; and even at My Lai the grief of one of the survivors was mixed with bewilderment as he told a reporter, ‘I just don't understand it ... always before, the Americans brought medicine and candy.’ I believe there is something in all of us that would wave a flag for the dream of an America that brings medicine and candy, but we are gathered here today, waving no flags, in the ruins of that dream. Some of you saw right away the evil of what was going on; others of us one by one, adding and re-adding the balance sheet of what was happening and what could possibly be accomplished finally saw that no goal could be so laudable, or defense so necessary, as to justify what we have visited upon the people of Indochina.”

The gate to the cemetery had been closed and locked upon word of their impending arrival; the Gold Star mothers placed the wreaths outside the gate and departed. The march re-formed and continued to the Capitol, with Congressman Pete McCloskey joining the procession en route. McCloskey and fellow Representatives Bella Abzug, Don Edwards, Shirley Chisholm, Edmund Muskie and Ogden Reid addressed the large crowd and expressed support.

VVAW members defied a Justice Department-ordered injunction against camping on the Mall and set up an installation. Later that day, the District Court of Appeals lifted the injunction. Some members visited their Congressmen to lobby against the U.S. participation in the war. The VVAW presented Congress with a 16-point suggested resolution for ending the war.

On Tuesday, April 20, 200 veterans listened to hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on proposals to end the war. Other veterans, still angry at the insult to the Gold Star Mothers when they were refused entry to Arlington National Cemetery the previous day, marched back to the front gate.

After initial refusal of entry, the veterans were finally allowed in. Veterans performed guerrilla theater on the Capitol steps, re-enacting combat scenes and search and destroy missions from Vietnam. Later that evening, Democratic Senators Claiborne Pell and Philip Hart held a fund-raising party for the veterans.

During the party it was announced that Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States Supreme Court had reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstated the injunction. The veterans were given until 4:30 the following afternoon to break camp and leave the National Mall. This was the fastest reversal of an Appeals Court decision in the Supreme Court's history.

On Wednesday, April 21, more than 50 veterans marched to The Pentagon, attempting to surrender as war criminals. A Pentagon spokesman took their names and turned them away. Veterans continued to meet with and lobby their congressional representatives. Senator Ted Kennedy spent the day speaking with the veterans.

The guerrilla theater re-enactments were moved to the steps of the Justice Department. Many veterans were prepared to be arrested for camping on the National Mall, but none were, as park police defied orders to make arrests. Headlines the following day read, "VETS OVERRULE SUPREME COURT."

On Thursday, April 22, a large group of veterans demonstrated on the steps of the Supreme Court, saying that the Supreme Court should have ruled on the constitutionality of the war. The veterans sang "God Bless America" and 110 were arrested for disturbing the peace, and were later released. John Kerry, as VVAW spokesman, testified against the war for 2 hours in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before a packed room.

The veterans lobbied all day on Capitol. A Washington District Court judge dissolved his injunction order, rebuking the Justice Department lawyers for requesting the court order and then not enforcing it. Veterans staged a candlelight march around the White House, while carrying a huge American flag upside down in the historic international signal of distress.

On Friday, April 23, more than 800 veterans individually tossed their medals, ribbons, discharge papers, and other war mementos on the steps of the Capitol, rejecting the Vietnam war and the significance of those awards. Several hearings in Congress were held that week regarding atrocities committed in Vietnam and the media's inaccurate coverage of the war. There were also hearings on proposals to end the United States' participation in the war.

The vets planted a tree on the mall as part of a ceremony symbolizing the veterans' wish to preserve life and the environment.
27 photos · 197 views