Vietnam Veterans Against The War FBI Files
19,978 pages of FBI files covering the activities of the ant-Vietnam War group, Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Most of this material was originally released in 1999 to author and historian Gerald Nicosia, after seeking their release under the Freedom of Information Act in 1988. This set released in June 2004, contains pages of documents not released to Nicosia in 1999.
The documents date from 1967 to 1976. They are composed of memos, reports, investigation summaries, confidential informant accounts, newspaper and wire service articles, and Vietnam Veterans Against the War bulletins and flyers. The files give broad coverage to activities of VVAW members such as Scott Camil, Al Hubbard, Joseph Urgo, Michael Oliver, Edward Damato, Larry Rottman, George Roberts, Craig Scott Moore and the person who has become its most well known member, John Kerry.
After six Vietnam Veterans walked together in an anti-Vietnam War march, Vietnam Veterans Against the War was founded in New York City, in 1967. The investigation of the VVAW gained steam after Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara saw an advertisement from the group in the November 11, 1967 edition of the New York Times. In 1970 the group had 600 members. By the 1971 it had 6,000 members. The bulk of the monitoring of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War took place between 1972 and 1975. During that time the FBI increased efforts to recruit VVAW members as informants.
Although there were many anti-war groups at the time, The Vietnam Veterans Against the War seems to have gathered more attention from the FBI than most others. The sight of uniforms, medals, and missing limbs caused a greater stir along all sectors of the ideological spectrum of opinion about the Vietnam War. There also may have been a feeling in the FBI that members of the VVAW were more dangerous than hippies, because VVAW members had military training and had seen combat. The files show the United States domestic intelligence infrastructure's level of concern about the possibility of subversion and sedition, among those who were strongly critical of American Vietnam policy.
John Kerry first became familiar with the VVAW through his sister Peggy, in 1969. After deciding not to run for Congress in 1970, Kerry went to Paris, site of the Vietnam War peace negotiations, and met with Viet Cong representatives. After his return, he began speaking at VVAW events. John Kerry became one the Vietnam Veteran's Against the War's most publicly recognizable figures. Especially after his appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971. As a veteran who was decorated with a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts, Kerry garnered attention and consideration that other anti-Vietnam War protestors could not achieve. Kerry went on to become one of the members of VVAW's national steering committee.
In January of 1971, The Vietnam Veterans Against the War began its "Winter Soldier" investigation. The investigation consisted of the reciting of claims by people purporting to be Vietnam War veterans, about alleged atrocities committed in Vietnam. The investigation received very little attention at the time. The VVAW filmed the presentations, and put into circulation a film of the investigation titled "Winter Soldier."
The coverage of Kerry is mostly intermittently spread across memos dating from 1971. Much of the clandestine surveillance is composed of reporting made by unnamed confidential informants. The files chronicle: John Kerry's rise in status as a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, A growing ideological conflict with the more militant direction the VVAW was heading in, Travel to Paris for talks with North Vietnamese peace talk delegation, the "Kansas City" meeting, Kerry's pitched battle with VVAW leader Al Hubbard, and Kerry's dissolution as a leader of the VVAW in 1971.
The files document FBI accusations of a conspiracy to riot during the 1972 Republican National Convention, the passing of classified information to a Japanese communist leader. A member of the Connecticut chapter of the VVAW was arrested with an explosive device en route to a speech given by Vice President Spiro Agnew.
After the United States withdrew from Vietnam, the focus of the VVAW moved towards seeking amnesty for those who were jailed for resisting the draft and other anti-war crimes.