This article originally appeared at thenewyorktimes.com. By Rebecca Rusch The Ho Chi Minh Trail was called the Blood Road because so many
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December near Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., in late 1967 to provide soldiers with a place to hang out, listen to music–and, most of all, talk. It was hard to reach out to soldiers, who had few places to go to escape the authoritarian grip of the military command on stateside bases. Fred Gardner decided to rent a Main Street storefront in downtown Columbia and open up the UFO coffeehouse–a play on the USO (United Service Organization) that sponsored Bob Hope’s patriotic performances for the troops
December 4-8 “Stop the Draft Week” at Whitehall, NY Army Induction Center; 546/585 arrested, including Dr. Benjamin Spock & and Alan Ginsberg. Actions also take place in Madison, Manchester N.H., Cincinnati, and New Haven.
December 6 The U.S. reports that the NLF murdered 252 civilian Montagnards in the hamlet of Dak Son.
December 23 Upon arrival at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, President Johnson declares “…all the challenges have been met. The enemy is not beaten, but he knows that he has met his master in the field.” This is the President’s second and final trip to Vietnam.
December 25 14 servicemen found The American Servicemen’s Union (ASU), each from a different base. Its leader was Pvt. Andrew Stapp, of the U.S. Army. He was active in the anti-war movement and the draft resistance movement and came to realize that draft resistance could not reach enough people, especially GI’s. Stapp was eager to go in when he was called for induction. He had already decided to work on organizing GI’s to fight for their rights, including their right to refuse to fight in an illegal and unjust war.
Stapp was court-martialed twice. The first time he was found guilty; the second time because his case had attracted so much support from both civilian groups and from troops at Ft. Sill, where Stapp was stationed, Stapp was found not guilty. Finally the Army gave him a dishonorable discharge. The ASU fought for an end to all forms of discrimination in the service, whether by race or by rank, and for the realization of the Constitutional rights of all GI’s. The ASU has been very active in arranging for legal assistance for servicemen. ASU supported the struggles of black marines Harvey and Daniels, seaman Roger Priest, the 43 Ft. Hood Black GI’s, and many other cases. The ASU stresses unity among GI’s. ASU published the Bond. The ASU eventually claimed 10,000 members.
By year’s end, U.S. troop levels reach 463,000 with 16,000 combat deaths to date (more than 9000 in 1967 along with close to 100,000 wounded), with a total of over 1.3 million troops under American command. By this time, over a million American soldiers have rotated through Vietnam, with length of service for draftees being one year, and most Americans serving in support units. An estimated 90,000 soldiers from North Vietnam infiltrated into the South via the Ho Chi Minh trail in 1967. Overall NLF/PAVN troop strength throughout South Vietnam is now estimated up to 300,000 men. Estimates of Vietnamese deaths (North and South, military and civilian) are harder to come by though a 2008 study by the British Medical Journal estates total deaths from 1954-75 at 3.8 million (higher than most western estimates and the official estimate by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (the postwar government) of 3.1 million. See http://mattsteinglass.wordpress.com/2008/06/20/vietnam-war-killed-38-million-vietnamese-not-21-million/ and http://www.bmj.com/content/336/7659/1482.full#REF16