Category Archives: Vietnam

John G. Morris – 20th Century Little Big Man

Capa,_D-Day1In 1964 Thomas Berger published Little Big Man. Filmed later as an anti-war parody by director Arthur Penn, the satirical novel recounts the exploits of 111-year-old Jack Crabb, as he wanders through the history of nineteenth-century western America. Along the way his life intersects with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Buffalo Bill, and Custer. Through it all he has a front row seat to the so-called “winning of the West”— and he doesn’t like what he sees.

Crabb was a fictional character but each era seems to have its real life Jack Crabbs–  people whose long lives spanned critical historical events, and whose actions, usually associated with their work, influenced events behind the scenes. One such real life character is John G. Morris (1916 –  ). Quietly Morris became a key figure in the story of the 20th-century through his photo editing. He was on the scene in downtown Los Angeles early in 1942 to photograph the first wave of Japanese men, women and children being packed off to internment camps in the high desert. He then went to London as Life magazine’s lead photo editor in Europe during World War II and was in charge of coordinating the visual coverage of the Western Front. It was Morris who managed to save a handful of historic images shot by Robert Capa at D-Day when it was feared the entire set had been lost when damaged in development. Morris went to Normandy himself shortly after the invasion and snapped some memorable photos of his own. After the war, while at Ladies Home Journal, Morris published Women and Children of the Soviet Union with photos taken by Robert Capa. The photos provided Americans with a rare glimpse behind the Iron Curtain at the onset of the Cold War.

His career spans tenures with Life magazine, the Magnum photo agency, Ladies’ Home JournalThe Washington Post, The New York Times, and the National Geographic magazine. He knew and worked with the most celebrated war chroniclers of the times– Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, W. Eugene Smith, Ernest Hemingway and David Duncan to name just a few. While he was the photo editor for The New York Times during the Vietnam War, Morris put Nick Ut’s “Napalm Girl” and Eddie Adams’ Saigon execution and John Filo’s student crying at Kent State on the front page — photos that greatly affected public perception of the Vietnam War. Morris is passionately anti-war, and much like Jack Crabb, it becomes abundantly clear upon listening to him speak that he doesn’t like what he sees. View an excellent documentary about John G. Morris called Get The Picture.

Career:

Daily Maroon (The Chicago Maroon), University of Chicago student newspaper, 1933-37

Pulse, University of Chicago student magazine, Editor, 1937-38

LIFE (magazine), Editorial Staff, 1939-46 : New York, Los Angeles, Washington, London, Chicago, Paris

Ladies’ Home Journal, Associate Editor (Pictures), 1946-52

Magnum News Service, Editor, 1952-63

The Washington Post, Assistant Managing Editor (Graphics), 1964-65

Time/Life Books, editor, 1966-67

The New York Times, Picture Editor, 1967-74; Editor, NYT Pictures, 1975-76

Quest/77-79, Contributing Editor, 1977-79

National Geographic, European Correspondent, 1983-89

The Mysterious Death of Ruben Salazar

RubenSalazar44 years ago, on August 29, 1970, Ruben Salazar was killed by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during a peace march against the Vietnam War in Los Angeles. His death is the lasting legacy of a pivotal moment in the Chicano-American civil rights movement. The antiwar march, known as the Chicano Moratorium, was nearly 30,000 strong and thus the largest Mexican-American rally to date. Along the way an “incident” sparked chaos giving sheriff’s deputies the pretext to move in with force, rushing the crowd with billy clubs and tear gas. It soon became the biggest and bloodiest riot in L.A. since the Watts riot in 1965.

Salazar had worked for years at the Los Angeles Times but by the time of his death he had moved on to KMEX, where he felt he had more freedom to report on issues important the Chicano community. By August 1970 he had become the most influential Latino journalist of his day and over the years his criticism of the authorities’ treatment of the Latino community had grown increasingly strident. While covering the march, Ruben took refuge in a nearby cafe when things got too hot in the streets. The cafe was quickly surrounded by the police. What happened next has been the subject of heated arguments ever since. The only certainty is that Ruben Salazar never made it out alive.  The LA County Coroner ruled the killing a homicide but the deputy who’s gun fired the fatal shot was never charged. The L.A. Sheriff’s Department held out until 2012 before releasing its records of the case, and then only to settle under the pressure of a lawsuit brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. That information has broadened our understanding of the events but by no stretch has the controversy been cleared up. As reported earlier this year by the LA Times the “legacy of Ruben Salazar has reached folklore heights since the journalist’s suspicious death in 1970 at 42.”

Check out these Ruben Salazar resources on the Web:

The LA Times Ruben Salazar Files

Watch The PBS Documentary Here:

Ruben Salazar: Man in the Middle

Trailer:

Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Studs_Terkel_-_1979-1The National Endowment for the Humanities has funded the creation of a publicly accessible digital archive which will stream nearly 5,000 oral history interviews conducted by the great Studs Terkel from his 45 years on Chicago radio. The site is active but currently only a fraction of the material is up. Much more to come. Check it out here:

Studs Terkel Radio Archive

Listen to a sample: Studs interviews Alfred McCoy in 1971 about his book on the drug trade in Southeast Asia and it’s effect on American soldiers in Vietnam.

Who Spoke Up? – Voices of Protest Against the War in Vietnam

chicago68_blankfort_smallDuring the Vietnam War nothing got under the skin of the war managers– LBJ, Nixon, their generals, top cops and political cronies — more than public criticism from liberal, and sometimes moderate, members of the intelligentsia, college campuses and the media. The war pushers tried every dirty trick in the book, and then some, to shut these voices down– they labeled dissenters as traitors, commies and un-American; used the FBI to spy on them (Cointelpro) and the IRS to audit them; created laws to throw them in jail for protesting, or sent in ringers and police to start riots during peace marches; and in some cases even shot them dead.

But these tactics ultimately failed. Over time the chorus of voices demanding peace steadily grew in strength and in retrospect history has shown that the opposition interpretation of the war was not only more informed, but also much more honest, than that of the establishment. In fact, we know now that, from Tonkin to Cambodia, there was no lie too big for LBJ and Nixon if it served their purposes of continuing a failed policy in the hopes of pulling off a hail Mary pass late in the game–which of course did not happen.

A true turning point in modern American politics, the shady events of the war years marked the beginning of a damaging turn toward cynicism by the American public regarding the honesty and integrity of their government. Prior to Vietnam, people may have disagreed about politics, but they essentially believed their leaders were, for the most part, honest people, public administrators with honorable intentions. But the Vietnam War– with its phony after battle briefings, trumped up body counts, constant false optimism, secret bombing campaigns and duplicitous foreign diplomacy– shattered that glossy veneer. The trend was accelerated by Watergate and then officially codified into right-wing ideology by Ronald Reagan. The fallout from the war, the war at home, started the nation on the path that has left us deeply divided, and apparently paralyzed politically.

Listen to archival broadcasts from the period featuring those who stood up against the war:

IF Stone – Vietnam Day Protest UC Berkeley 1965:

 

Writers Against The War 1967:

 

MLK  Beyond Vietnam – April 1967

MLK Santa Rita Jail and Los Angeles 1968:

 

UC Berkeley Sproul Hall Sit-in 1968: 

 

Columbia University Student Strike 1968:

 

Chicago 1968:

 

Soldiers Against the War 1968:

 

Noam Chomsky on Draft Resistance 1968:

 

Dr Benjamin Spock – UC Berkeley 1968:

 

Seymour Hersh Exposes My Lai Massacre 1969:

 

The Complete Pentagon Papers 

List of Anti-Vietnam War Protests

Note: with the most recent national military debacle – the Iraq War – flaming out of control again, and the hawks circling above calling for US involvement, these recordings take on a renewed significance, if for nothing else than to remind ourselves that it is possible to speak out and influence events– it’s one of the only real powers “we the people” have.