Tin Can is a new book on an old subject with an urgent and creative voice demanding and deserving attention. Written as a fictitious novel, the subject matter builds into a crescendo of action into a mutiny by thirteen determined sailors on an American Destroyer. Meese knows his subject well and speaks with authority on all naval matters having had three years on a destroyer, affectionately called a Tin Can, probably because it bobs up and down in a rough ocean much like a can despite its weight, speed and accuracy at gunnery operations. Meese describes his awakening to the reasons so many protested this unpopular immoral war including, “pride, profit, and big shots on power trips. So noble.” Meanwhile although President Johnson had admitted “We can’t win it and we can’t get out of it” Meese describes this war as being “clamped in a grand mal seizure of blood lust” when a simple solution was to declare peace and end it. But no, Johnson pressed it until fifty-eight thousand American and a few million local civilians had died meaninglessly and unnecessarily.
From the beginning Meese points out Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on Mutiny or Sedition is punishable by death as well as desertion under article 85. Meese opines that the “poor enlisted man who hates the crimes which he is ordered to commit is forced to mutiny or to die a little within himself.” The first couple of chapters introduce the reader to rituals at sea, the routines on a destroyer, gunnery drills, the details of his destroyer and then eventually ordered shooting into jungle areas inhabited by Vietnamese obviously killing anyone the victim of such bombardment. Liberty in port usually meant a quick short time with a whore for the best price and all the beer or whisky one could find. Friendships and loyalties developed to combat the incessant message that sailors were meaningless while “lifers” mattered. He decried that he would have been an officer had he not failed his eye exam for Annapolis in 1964.
Mutiny in Vietnam has been a subject of historian interest as University of Massachusetts’ Professor Christian G. Appy described with the help of an army of grad students’ research in his treatise, American Reckoning, THE VIETNAM WAR AND OUR NATIONAL IDENTITY. He reported anti-war protests included four antiwar sailors from the Aircraft Carrier Intrepid in October 1967 who deserted to Japan after a bombing mission in the Gulf of Tonkin who worked the catapult to launch countless navy jet bombers on Vietnam missions. Appy reports Col. Robert Heinl (ret) said: “Our army that remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers, and non-commissioned officers, drug-ridden and dispirited where not near mutinous.” Five aircraft carriers were kept out of the combat zone by acts of sabotage and protest by active duty sailors, and some antiwar pilots who were refusing to fly combat missions.
Meese used the Gulf of Tonkin for the beginning scene of his mutiny after a few chapters that discusses tedious but necessary naval procedures aboard a destroyer and the role of subservient sailors in a navy filled with bombastic traditions in our most unpopular war. Eventually another sailor Obie, reveals his commonly held anti-Vietnam War views, at least among Jack’s friends, to the brass. They send him to the brig where he is beaten unmercifully, then tortured, and dies! This caused his crewmembers like Jack who hung with other anti-Vietnam War sailors to pledge retaliation. John “Jack” Mason, raises the stakes much higher leading a mutiny with his thirteen comrades. That left over one hundred men, including, of course, the “Lifers” like the Captain, Chief Petty Officers who had spent more than ten years in their “profession”, locked physically out of interference with the twelve instigators by a quick show of weapons and force. I must leave the details of this exciting mutiny for the reader to discover and ruminate over. So much happens so fast, and at such potential cost to one’s future it is an amazing task Meese does well in scrambling together from his imagination based on the details he knew and amassed from his research. You will not regret discovering how these 12 men managed to take their destroyer with many naval hostages five hours up a river to China where this writer leaves you to imagine what happens next or find out by reading this action-packed adventure with the most severe of all possibilities with which the mutineers contend.
Bio: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)
21 Months, 24 Days ISBN# 9781499745542, by Richard Udden takes the reader from his enlistment hoping to avoid becoming a grunt as an inexperienced eighteen year-old kid, to an articulate curious soldier with unbounded energy learning on the run. Expecting an easy two years working in a trade, he was assigned infantry and sent to Vietnam to fight in a jungle he accurately describes in such detail the reader is with him experiencing the toughest life imaginable. Most every chapter contains photographs that show details he writes passionately about.
Because of his certificate in Machine Shop Technology, he hoped the Army would use that skill to assign him away from infantry, instead they made him a grunt. After advanced Infantry in Alabama they sent him to NCO school in Anniston, Alabama delaying his entry to Vietnam by five months! From Oakland Army Base in California, he boarded an airplane for Vietnam where he landed a day later. Assigned to A Company, First Cav Division, he looked around and felt he had “dropped down through a rabbit hole, to where there was no escape.” He would be stuck here for a year at nearby Bien Hoa Air Force Airbase.
Standing guard was grueling as he had to do seven days a week at night, where trip flares were in place in case VC approached. Once they tripped a wire connected to one, the whole sky would light up. If there were others approaching he could send up a parachute flare to illuminate a larger area. Barbed wire weaved through the area to prevent crawling or running through. Many weapons existed to handle any size of force including claymore mines, machine guns and calling in jet aircraft.
His loneliness grew as he kept sending letters home but had not received any in return though he knew they were writing. Much later he was able to receive their mail and gifts. Soon he was transferred to Fire Support Base called “Buttons”, twenty miles from Cambodian Border, with A Company known as “Ace High” where he received his own M16 rifle, helmet, and joined his fighting group of many experienced veterans. He was in awe of their appearance and proud to be a part of such a unit. Immediately he earned a nickname “Boston Bean” and became emotionally attached.
His first combat assault was when Ace High moved by helicopter into the jungle for about two weeks where they would resupply soldiers in the field. Flying over a jungle with six Hueys at two thousand feet at one-hundred-twenty knots they moved in, landed, and dug a large hole to sleep near and store their machine guns, ammo, and equipment. Leeches, bees, and termites attacked where they hadn’t sprayed insect repellent. This was living hell. In two weeks they were back having completed that mission.
March 1970 Udden states Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia and extension of the war, was to not to allow North Vietnam to take over South Vietnam because that would make us “look helpless and lose face in the world.” Many contend though, by extending the war, Nixon’s solution cost three million more Vietnamese and more than 20, 000 Americans.
Soon Udden was transferred to Firebase Candy for guard duty seven miles from the Cambodian border. He was informed the VC used Cambodia for rest, food, ammunition, and relaxation just as our troops used the VIP center. But artillery constantly bombarded the area “to soften up the VC and NVA soldiers just over the Cambodian border.” The noise bothered him so much he wanted a transfer to door gunner on a Huey. Soon they moved out of Candy to find action near the Cambodian border.
Udden was selected for Combat Leadership Training and even spoke with his family using a ham radio link that picked up his sagging spirits like “standing on the moon.” Rainy season was far more annoying than the heat of the sun.
Everyone liked Steve from California who was married just before Vietnam meaning he was not to do combat. Their Colonel was replaced by another whom the men despised for his annoying new orders that exposed them to more danger. Udden later saw a VC up close while foolishly reading a book on patrol. Both dropped to the ground. He felt vulnerable and angry at himself.
In his first real firefight a few days later while in the jungle in single file, VC machine gun fire hit the group. Dave was shot in the stomach and a Huey took him away. Udden changed that day. It hurt him personally and he felt the need for revenge of his military family. He recalled Biblical support for eye for an eye retaliation in the Old Testament. Three more men were killed shortly afterwards. When a howitzer sent a shell into their midst three more were hurt badly. He received a promotion to Specialist 4 and made Fire Team leader. A few months later Udden was promoted to sergeant.
While walking on patrol someone tripped a wire tied to a grenade in an artillery shell throwing him in the air with shrapnel in a thigh while Steve went down. No Medivac could reach there nor could volunteers despite hours trying. Steve’s death deeply affected Udden.
After his Army life he married, had two children, and is a retired Control Systems Engineer. He attended a reunion with many of his war pals, visited Steve’s family, and honored the dead at the Vietnam Wall. His life stands as a tribute to many who served in our most controversial war.
BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)
STRINGS: A LOVE STORY by Megan Edwards Reviewed by Daniel C. Lavery
I devoured my pre-publication copy as a classical music lover, and one who had an immediate connection with my wife the moment we met some refer to as a soul-mate. Megan Edward’s creative writing shown by spectacular descriptions and themes followed by a phenomenal ending makes a powerful combination. This review is but a skeleton of a much greater whole spanning the lives of two lovers in high school through many years of professional life, marriage, an ugly divorce and many vibrant surprises. STRINGS combines these with a unique classic musical instrument: "The Violin of Angels." We are soon greeted with an unusual love that survived extreme hurdles. Ted Spencer, a rich boy fell for a cleaning lady’s daughter, Olivia de la Vega. They played Lancelot and Guenevere in Camelot at a private school called Haviland with interference from his family who thought he deserved better, and much fickle fate thereafter. His mastery of the violin admitted him to Julliard but separated them when his parents interfered making her doubt his love as one of the many “strings” that obstructed their romance.
Olivia, a stunning beauty, and talented actress, introduced Ted to a different world of Celtic harps, a music festival, and hippies instead of the upper crust of society in which his parents sheltered him. This helped free him from the rigid control his parents and Classical music teachers stressed. At his home his Dad produced a sparkling diamond he had cut for Ted when he married someone acceptable. Soon Ted announced he wanted to marry Olivia and was going to Julliard, not Yale as his father wanted. Taking two cigarettes to lite, he handed one to Ted and informed him if he did, that was the last thing he would receive from him! His parents ensured Olivia would leave the scene by lying that Ted had a girlfriend he planned to marry and had a diamond ring for her. Naturally, she failed to show at a time Ted asked for her to join him at their secret shelter and disappeared.
As fate would have it, Olivia found work in Television and soon became a talented actress in Los Angeles, married, and named her daughter, “Theodora.” Meanwhile, Ted developed his violin expertise at Julliard, played at Carnegie Hall, and became Concertmaster with the Vienna Philharmonic. Fast-forward nineteen years when Olivia met Ted at a concert where he played Paganini’s “Last Caprice in A major,” his audition piece for Julliard, “he consigned to his heart along with memories of Olivia too melancholy to open.” Later when she visited during a contentious divorce, he bought a tiny porcelain ballerina that pirouetted before a mirror to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” as a present for her seven year-old daughter, Teddy.
After another hiatus, Ted met Sophie Reinhardt who helped his career take off while they lived together noting her “pale blonde hair swirled in soft unruly curls to her shoulders” while “her confident grey-blue eyes met his gaze.” Divorced five years, she was free and helped his career blossom during their extended affair. So successful his career became from their liaison, he bought an eight bedroom three story home with four fireplaces at Westchester County in Sleepy Hollow next to his Rockefeller neighbor!
Soon Olivia’s letter from Malibu re-connected them. Her husband of ten years had died leaving her the entire contents of his study which contained an extraordinary violin: Joseph Guarnius…1742 HIS! She asked him to appraise this gift since he had become a violin expert and exclaimed, “It wasn’t the amazing Violin that made his head damp, but Olivia returning to his life!” When she arrived he set up his fiber optic camera. The remainder of the process unfolds like a Sherlock Holmes mystery revealing a violin, The Merino Rose, worth millions. Ted generously made a bequest of this gift to Teddy for her future. The spectacular ending on a beach at sunset, waves crashing, the sand turning gold, and the wind blowing in Olivia’s hair, left this reader in tears with Ted’s final words: “You and I have a symphony to finish.” Readers will want to order a copy to fill in the amazing details of this extraordinary and unforgettable fictional romance novel.
BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, was carrier qualified, and earned NAO wings in Florida, and then a ship to Vietnam with 300 marines. He resigned, turned peace activist, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU, and private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to a crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (Author website)
(Redcat is located on the third parking floor of the Disney Center in Los Angeles)
Dear friends: I have been invited to participate in the collective reading of Palabras Ajenas [The Words of Others], of León Ferrari,at REDCAT at the Disney Center in Los Angeles after they interviewed me. They sought activists in the LA area in a letter sent to Vietnam Vets Against War (VVAW) that I have been a member of since 1968 and volunteer to respond to letters to them asking for interviews with members. I will read the words taken down in history of LBJ collected by these remarkable people. The group of readers will comprise, apart from some VVAW members, art professors, journalists, artists, students, and activists from Los Angeles community as well.
(Another view of the Disney Center)
They thanked me for sending my bio that revealed my civil rights background as a lawyer for 34 years after leaving the Navy. Human and civil rights were also at the center of Ferrari's career, a position that got accentuated when the military government murdered his son during the dictatorship in Argentina.
(Christ on a jet bomber artistic rendition [Westerns and Christian Civilization (1065) by Leon Ferrari)
Published in 1967, Palabras Ajenas [The Words of Others] was a direct response to news and images of the Vietnam War and the violent expansion of Western culture during the years of the Cold War. It was composed from quotations of the Bible, speeches from the President Lyndon Johnson, Pope Paul VI, and Nazi leaders, as well as reports from the Vietnam War taken from various newspapers and news outlets.
(Author of Palabras Ajenas (Words of Others) 1967)
This project is curated and directed by Ruth Estévez, Miguel López and Agustín Díez Fischer, and Carmen Amengual as Associate researcher. The script of this reading has been translated into English by Antena (Jen Hofer with Tupac Cruz and Román Luján) after two years of work, looking into the original sources, and it has been adapted for the reading by Jose Antonio Sánchez, a Spanish scholar that has been writing extensively about political theater and Juan Ernesto Díaz, from Mapa Teatro (Mexico).
PALABRAS AJENAS/THE WORDS OF OTHERS Performance/Public Reading Author: León Ferrari Directors and curators: Agustín Diez Fischer, Ruth Estévez and Miguel López Script adaptation: José Antonio Sánchez Sound design: Juan Ernesto Díaz Research Associate: Carmen Amengual Staging: Juan Ernesto Díaz, José Antonio Sánchez and Ruth Estévez. Translation: Antena, published in 1967, is a literary collage composed by the Argentine artist León Ferrari as an extensive dialogue between real and fictional characters. President Lyndon Johnson, Hitler, Pope Paul VI, and God, among others, enter into conversation through quotations selected by the artist from history books, literature, the Bible, newspapers and magazines.
By means of a cut-and-paste exercise, the artist correlates the atrocities of the Vietnam War, the horrors of Nazism, and the representations of redemption and punishment in Christian doctrine. The piece was composed during the Vietnam War, at a moment when the Cold War was used as a justification for the intervention in foreign countries by the American military, and the establishment of the cruelest dictatorships in Latin America, with the support of the CIA. The news from Vietnam, and specially the photographic documentation of torture on the field, mobilized the artist who began collecting and combining a huge amount of clippings. The result is an enormous oratorium conceived to be read in public. Through it, Ferrari raises his voice against the war using the words of others.
(Artistic rendition by Leon Ferrari)
(Many Cal Arts Students participate in The World of Others)
The Words of Others is not a theater piece written to be represented, but a conceptual art piece, consisting of words to be transformed into voices, but not into characters. Even if it might resemble documentary theater or certain political theater from the sixties, it doesn’t require a theatrical treatment, but only the consideration of a political art. Consequently, the participants are invited to read focusing on the rhythms and the words editing rather than on the identity of the characters, even when some of them are very well known: Hitler, Johnson, Goebbels, Christ, Paul VI or God. The intention is not to construct a character, nor even to propose a fixed identity. Therefore, different speakers will read the same characters along the performance. The group of speakers/readers will consist, approximately, of thirty people. Distributed in successive shifts of eight to sixteen speakers at a time, they will give voice, along approximately eight hours, to the words of almost two hundred characters, both real or figured. In order to make the task of the speakers as easy as possible, we are preparing a very detailed script that will allow minimizing the time of rehearsal: in some cases, just one session previous to the performance will be enough. The goal of the rehearsal will be to explain the rhythm, tone and position codes used in the script, to make clear the identity of the voices, and to clarify some contents and intentions of the author, when necessary. The reading will be supported by a soundtrack, which will create some atmospheres. Providing tones or rhythmic keys, the soundtrack will reinforce the critical intention of the text, bringing the historical words to the present and helping to identify the voices. In some cases, a historical recording will be used instead of the live voice: for instance, Pope's Paul VI speech at the UN assembly in 1965. Since that speech was pronounced in French, we will project English subtitles. The same will happen in other specific moments in which the text will be read in original Spanish. The speakers will sit around ten tables (two to four speakers per table), distributed all over the space: one/two table(s) for the Press (max. 4 voices), two for the Historian, the historical Press and the Bible (including God, Christ and St. John), one for L. Johnson and A. Hitler, one for the Pope, Paul VI, one for the Nazis (Goebbels, Göring, Himmler, etc.), one for the US Administration (State Secretaries, advisors, senators, generals, etc.), one for the Priest and the Missal, and one extra table for other different voices. Some voices will be identified through small plastic elements (tiny figures, books, models….);
some others will be identified through projections on the lateral walls (it will be the case of US, Germany and Vietnam Administration members, Generals and Priests). The audience will receive a map of the space, with a brief description of the reading device. They may sit at the tables very close to the speakers, circulate around them or sit down on different chairs distributed all over the room. Eventually, a spectator could read some lines. On the tables we will dispose plenty of documentary material: copies of the original newspapers, magazines or books pages where the words were found, contextual documents, documents of León Ferrari work as well as some other documents that bring the performance to the present: current conflicts, economic neocolonialism, criminalization of migrants, practice and acceptance of torture. Spectators are not expected to stay in the reading for a long time, although they may. In any case, they don’t need to keep their attention on the reading as if they were attending a theater performance; they will instead inhabit the space as long as they consider. Even if the text was conceived by Ferrari as a continuum it is possible to recognize in it different rhythms and intensities.
(Artistic rendition in Spanish by Leon Ferrari)
The last section is without a doubt the most lively: more voices intervene and more speakers will be needed. In order to make easier the preparation and rehearsals, we have divided the script in 8 acts and 43 scenes. Each act lasts around one hour. Scenes will allow a more effective distribution of the rehearsals and will make easier to organize the shifts. This division will not affect the final reading which will be continuous as Ferrari conceived it. This public reading of Palabras Ajenas constitutes a big challenge: it will be the first time that the piece will be read from the beginning to the end, without cutting it. Previous readings, realized by Maler in London and Asquini in Buenos Aires, used shortened versions. Our current political situation offers unfortunate parallelisms with Ferrari’s context during the preparation of Palabras Ajenas. For that reason, we consider that the realization of this piece and the participation in the reading should work not only as a way of recalling the artistic and political work of León Ferrari, paying homage to him as an artist, a citizen and a person, but also as a gesture in defense of culture, democracy and civil rights. Public Reading: September 16th, 2017.
(Artistic rendition by Leon Ferrari)
From 12 to 8 pm. Rehearsal: September 11th. From 10 to 2 pm (TBD) LOCATION: REDCAT THEATER Contact: Ruth Estévez: email@example.com Carmen Amengual: firstname.lastname@example.org Collections of clippings from the 1960´s containing quotes that León Ferrari used in Palabras Ajenas/ The Words of the Others. Courtesy Pablo Ferrari. PALABRAS AJENAS (1967)
The Light Where Shadows End : A Book Review by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW, A War Hero’s Inspirational Journey Through Death, Recovery, and a World Without Home by r.g. cantalupo (He uses no capitals in his name on the cover: New World Publishers, paper, 2015, 171 pages) A member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the author took part in the 1971 Winter Soldier Investigations where he confessed to committing crimes and atrocities. A Radio-Telephone Operator (RTO) with the 25th Infantry Division in 1968-69, Cantalupo (a nickname, actually H. H. Gregory), served in Vietnam and was awarded a Bronze Star with a Combat V and three Purple Hearts. He describes himself as a war criminal who fired white phosphorus mortars and called in napalm bombs on civilians using weapons banned by the Geneva Convention. He returns to the scene of his action in 2015 “to survive my looming suicide… to Trang Bang where Nick Ut photographed the ‘Napalm Girl’. That was also where he ordered villagers to lie down while they destroyed their village and where Lonny, Baby, San, Devil and I lay dying not for God, or flag, or country, but simply because we were “the chosen”, draftees offered up from poor black, brown, or white families by an upper-middle-class draft board that didn’t want to take sons from their own.
He describes his boot camp training droning into him like a mantra: “They are gooks, dinks, commies, savages, nothing resembling us, nothing close to human. And, it worked-when I was shooting at a cardboard man, when I was stabbing a dummy to death with a bayonet, when I was on the edge of terror--it was the only voice I heard. But four months in Vietnam had changed me. The kids along Highway 1 chanting “G. I. Numba One” as they begged chocolate bar or cokes looked no different than the kids from my tenement—Asian versus black, or Puerto Rican or Pollock or Jew—hungrier maybe, more desperation in their eyes, but under the grime and stink, they were no different than the kids I grew up with carrying hopes and fears and dream. And so I heard a different voice—my own… How long does it take to kill a man-- from inside? …How long before I was no longer a man but a rifle. A bullet, and I inside a soulless body?
After his good friend Lonny is killed when he makes eye contact with an enemy soldier who is badly wounded and groaning in the Elephant grass, Cantalpo raises his rifle: "I put his head in the crosshairs, held my breath, and put my finger on the trigger guard. I didn’t squeeze the trigger. I couldn’t. Not anymore. Lonny was dead. Nothing I could do would bring him back. Not killing this soldier. Not killing the whole fucking North Vietnamese Army. Lonny was dead. Shot in the throat and chest by his own men. Friendly fire. Friendly. As if killing was somehow friendlier if done by your own men. And who was to blame? The soldiers on the perimeter who opened fire from fear of being overrun? The C.O. who sent us out? General Westmoreland? Nixon? Kissinger? The Pentagon? The Army? The rich? The whole fucking US of A? My mother? My war-hero father? Yes, everyone was to blame. Everyone carried Lonny’s blood on their hands. I lowered my rifle. I was done. I was done with killing, done with death, done with war. For a long moment, the wounded soldier held my eyes, then he turned and slowly crawled away."
He recounts his horrendous injuries from a mortar exploding a few feet away that hurled his body into the dark sky and then crashed down leaving him covered in warm blood and a nurse nicknamed “Peaches” helped him through hours, days and weeks of care with whom he says he seriously fell in love. “And then I rose. Above my body. Above my life. Is this my soul parting from my flesh, my spirit rising toward eternity, flying through the tunnel of white light toward people I loved? I rose in darkness, in shadow, the body below me—my body—graying to a shade, the medic slowly dimming to a hazy silhouette. I rose, but my wounds did not fly away on angel’s wings, nor did I see my mortal life bleeding into light as if I were eternal. I merely slipped in and out of a world filled with fire and burning pain—“
A film crew from Vietnam TV International recorded his anguish following his journey toward reconciliation meeting with former members of The People’s Army against whom he fought. They share the truth of where the People’s Army hid in tunnels awaiting to attack and use a map to describe each of their locations in battles. After awkward embraces and they shake hands and say goodbye through the pain such a meeting engendered. The war’s legacy in Vietnam, Cantalupo says, includes “leaving hundreds of thousands of unexploded bombs to kill more children,” as well as “fourth generation birth defects and genetic mutations caused by our massive spraying of Agent Orange.” That situation “will not allow for my reconciliation. This was the most profoundly moving memoir I have read on Vietnam showing how a man changed from a war criminal to a sensitive human being aware he was lucky to have survived and gained an inspiration and an awakening that changed his life.
BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)