Vietnam Era Antiwar Movement: Successes, Failures, and Legacies
Thu December 1 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm EST
W. D. Ehrhart
Author, Educator, Vietnam Veteran
Professor of History, Hofstra University
Pentagon Papers Whistleblower
Assistant Professor of History, University of Alaska – Southeast
Director, InSight Films LLC – Moderator
This panel discussion considers the most vibrant, diverse, and sustained antiwar movement in U.S. history. What impact did it have on the conduct and conclusion of the Vietnam War? Does it offer lessons for our own time? Moderated by filmmaker Judith Ehrlich (The Boys Who Said NO!), the panel includes Daniel Ellsberg (the whistleblower who exposed decades of government lies about the war by releasing the Pentagon Papers), Carolyn Eisenberg (an antiwar activist and historian of the Vietnam War), Ngo Vinh Long (a historian who came of age in war-torn South Vietnam and joined the antiwar movement as a student in the U.S.), and W. D. Ehrhart (a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War who joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and became a poet and author).
Top photo: In an April, 1971 protest, a Vietnam veteran throws his war medal at the Capitol. Photo: Operation Dewey Canyon III, Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
W. D. Ehrhart is a former Marine Corps sergeant, veteran of the Vietnam War, and author of multiple books of nonfiction and poetry, including a memoir trilogy and most recently Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems. He holds a PhD from the University of Wales at Swansea, and is a retired master teacher of English and History. His first published work appeared in Winning Hearts and Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans published by 1st Casualty Press in 1972.
Carolyn Rusti Eisenberg is a professor of U.S. history and American foreign policy at Hofstra University. Her new book, Fire and Rain: Nixon, Kissinger and the Wars in Southeast Asia is being published December 2022 by Oxford University Press. Her previous book Drawing the Line: the American Decision to Divide Germany, 1944-49 (Cambridge University Press) won the Stuart Bernath Book Prize, and the Herbert Hoover Library Prize and was a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize. Carolyn was on the Strike Steering Committee at Columbia University in 1968 and decades later was a co-founder of Brooklyn for Peace. She is presently Legislative Coordinator for Historians for Peace and Democracy.
Daniel Ellsberg is a lecturer, writer, activist, and whistleblower. A former analyst at the RAND corporation, he was also an official in the Defense and State Departments under President Lyndon Johnson. From 1965-1967 he served in Vietnam studying pacification programs. By 1969, believing the Vietnam War unjust, Ellsberg photocopied a top-secret 7,000-page study of U.S. decision-making in Vietnam (the Pentagon Papers). In 1971, he leaked them to the New York Times and eighteen other newspapers. The government charged Ellsberg with twelve felony counts with a possible sentence of 115 years. The case was dismissed in 1973 when Watergate inquiries exposed criminal misconduct against Ellsberg by the Nixon White House. In the decades since, he has been arrested scores of times for acts of civil disobedience in opposition to U.S. nuclear and foreign policy. His books include The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017) and Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2002).
Nguyet Nguyen was born and raised in Vietnam. She completed her MA at the University of Oregon on a Fulbright scholarship, obtained her Ph.D. at American University in 2019, and is currently writing a book on the transnational antiwar movement by the Vietnamese during the war with the U.S. She has been active in shedding light on the GI antiwar movement and in projects to help clear unexploded ordnance in Vietnam. She is now teaching at the University of Alaska – Southeast as assistant professor of history.
Judith Ehrlich (moderator) is the co-director and producer of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, winner of the Peabody Award. Ehrlich’s most recent documentary, The Boys Who Said NO!, tells the story of a mass movement of draft resisters who chose conscience over killing in the Vietnam War. Ehrlich is currently producing an animated podcast featuring Ellsberg’s anti-nuclear analysis and activism for Defuse Nuclear War.
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The Feinberg Series
The 2022-2023 Feinberg Series is exploring histories of U.S. imperialism and anti-imperialist resistance. It is presented by the UMass Amherst Department of History in collaboration with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy and in partnership with more than two dozen co-sponsors. The Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series is made possible thanks to the generosity of UMass Amherst history department alumnus Kenneth R. Feinberg ’67 and associates.