Review of Clara Bingham’s WITNESS TO THE REVOLUTION, Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the year America Lost its Mind and Found Its Soul by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW

Clara Bingham’s WITNESS TO THE REVOLUTION, Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the year America Lost its Mind and Found Its Soul

WITNESS explores how the killing of four Kent State Students, maiming of nine more, by Ohio National Guardsmen, President Nixon’s invading neutral Cambodia, widespread anti-Vietnam protesting, and Seymour Hersh’s explosive reporting on the My Lai Massacre, shattered an enormous number of American’s support for prosecuting the Vietnam War. Clara Bingham’s unique enlightening interviews of 100 activists, vets, and officials, who pushed our country towards what Mario Savio called a revolution against “The Machine” referring to Henry David Thoreau’s essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” “There’s a time when the operation of the Machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus-and you’ve got to make it stop!”

  (Kent State Students where 4 were killed and 9 maimed by National Guardsmen bullets)

David Harris, one of many activists explains everything “grew out of the Mississippi taproot …when white college students went south to help voter registration and witnessed the heroism of the black people of Mississippi.” Other interviews included drug use, Woodstock, The Black Panthers, SDS, feminism, and Nixon’s lies stabbed most every thoughtful person’s conscience by the time Daniel Ellsberg published the Pentagon Papers. These policies caused the largest student strike ever with 2.5 million refusing classes and 700 colleges shutdown including Kent State. While an historian might question whether this massive civil disobedience constituted a revolution, this powerful book shows a major shift in thinking occurred when so many resisted the draft. It would have been unthinkable to the serviceman or public in World War II, however, resisting the draft was the favored choice of an enormous number of their children.

  (Weathermen about to smash windows demonstrating their rage at the "Machine")

This disconnect is present today with the Trump supporters living in an alternative universe from that of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. For example everyone in the Madison Police Department near Kent State when they heard of the shootings assumed the students were at fault from statements Spiro Agnew and the Ohio Governor made that vilified the protesters and urged the Guard to deal with them as scum. But the evidence was clear that the Guardsmen had violated their obligations to never fire on peaceful protesters as was common around the United States even if someone threw a rock or shouted obscenities. Allison Krause was killed by a bullet fired 343 feet away and while she took 45 minutes to bleed to death the medics were reserved for the Guardsmen and ignored her! Although no weatherman were present, elsewhere they had developed a strategy that included symbolic destruction of property like a Capitol bathroom with no one present. But it escalated into more serious bombings, hiding on the lam, and violence at demonstrations. Bingham says, “The sixties crested in 1968, with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Dr. King, the Tet Offensive and Nixon’s victory.”

  (Nixon under the influence of alcohol speaking with demonstrators who descended on the Lincoln Memorial in protest against the Vietnam War and Nixon's policies)

Nothing is more chilling nor remarkable than Seymour Hersh’s ferreting out the truth on the My Lai massacre by tracking down eye witnesses to a horrendous war crime. Vietnam Vets like Nick Turse submitted proof of at least 300 similar massacres. Many occurred in “free fire zones” where they killed “anything that moved.” The Village of Ben Suc by Jonathan Schell involved another massacre that made Jane Fonda say, “I was one person before I read it, and another person after I finished…that was the beginning of my outrage.” Hersh visited Calley’s attorney in Salt Lake City who called it a mistake as he was told defending Calley accused of killing 109 “Oriental human beings.” Over a few beers Calley called My Lai a “setup, just a firefight.” Ernie Medina, a Captain, refused to agree with Calley “how I had nothing to do with it!” Barry Romo explained the body count was “close to 500” with American casualties only “One self-inflicted.” Hersh learned of a photographer, Paul Medlo who told him of three pits with “hundreds of people”, and that Calley brutally killed a small child. Medlo admits he and Calley “Shot and shot” at the unarmed people. Medlo, one of “McNamara’s Folly”, who would have never qualified in the past because of tests he could not pass, the next morning had his foot blown off by a mine! He felt God punished him and would punish Calley. His mother said, “I sent them a good boy and they returned him a murderer.” Hersh found photographer Ron Haeberle who saved photos of the massacre reported by Ron Ridenhour who broke the story a year before. His graphic photos have been circulated worldwide.

  (My Lai Massacre where more than 500 unarmed civilians were killed under orders by Lt. William Calley)

At Calley’s court martial he was sentenced to life imprisonment and hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. The next day Nixon ordered him transferred to house arrest at officer’s barracks pending appeal! His habeas corpus petition was granted by Judge J. Robert Elliot because of pre-trial publicity prejudice, refusal of the House of Representatives to release testimony taken in executive session, and inadequate notice of charges. Bingham’s focus is 1969-70 the “crescendo of the sixties, when years of civil disobedience and mass resistance erupted into anarchic violence.” Government sabotage as well as surveillance, theatrics in courtroom trials, massive police misconduct, and President Nixon’s late-night Lincoln Memorial meeting with protesters under the influence of alcohol when he tried to make them understand he wanted to end the Vietnam War. However, when he created the plumbers his days were numbered and brought his rapid much deserved downfall with Watergate.

  (Jane Fonda and John Kerry speak at an Anti-Vietnam rally for Vietnam Veterans Against War)

BIO: Dan graduated Annapolis, navigated a jet, then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, joined VVAW, and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW, the ACLU and in private civil rights practice. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn in the military to crusader for justice. http://www.danielclavery.com (author website)

 

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Review of Richard Pena and John Hagan’s Last Plane Out of Saigon, by Daniel C. Lavery, for VVAW’s “The Veteran”

Traveling Wall

Beginning at the Traveling Wall in Austin, Texas, a smaller replica of the National Vietnam Memorial, Richard Pena expresses a somber emotion for those who died in Vietnam seeing a woman's tears. He knew her pain would never cease. Pena was on the last plane out of Vietnam after spending a tour as a medic in Saigon. His photo was taken by a Viet Cong soldier when that final plane left. He recognized himself carrying his law school brief case upon returning with a delegation at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City in 2003. Pena's journal entries while serving from 1972 to 1973 as an Operating Room Specialist are aided by John Hagan, author of nine books and many articles as professor of Sociology and Law, Northwestern University, who comments on the context of Pena's story in history with references.

Last Plane Out of Saigon Pena      

Author Richard Pena pointing to himself entering the last plane out of Saigon

Pena's parents were proud of their Hispanic heritage and taught him by example. His father won a Silver Star for his service at Iwo Jima. Pena won best all-around high school athlete in San Antonio, Texas. He attended University of Texas at Austin when students burned their draft cards and protested the Vietnam conflict. The My Lai massacre struck raw nerves his senior year. Soon at Kent State National Guardsmen killed four students and wounded more wrenching America. His low lottery number made it certain he would be drafted. He tried to fail his physical but they were taking anyone who breathed then and entered the Army, June 14, 1971 as one of the last drafted.

3rd Field Hospital SaigonPena arrived at the 3rd Field Hospital in Saigon during the North Vietnamese siege of An Loc when they shot down four aircraft and killed nearly all the residents a few months before Nixon's presidential election during an opportunity for peace talks to resolve the conflict. His objections to pressing for peace were politically motivated as Humphrey would have gained substantial support as a peace candidate despite his role with LBJ. Nixon's voice on tape in the oval office showed he proposed nuclear weapons to succeed but Kissinger replied he thought it would be too much. Nixon said, "I don't give a damn" about civilians killed by U.S. bombing USA Today reported February 28, 2002. While peace was possible Nixon refused to press for it and made the South Vietnamese think if he were president they would get a better deal prolonging the war needlessly and causing more than 20,000 more American deaths.

Nixon against ProtestorsPena called Vietnamization a catastrophe demonstrated graphically as he arrived. Young ARVN (Army of the Republic of Vietnam) troops threw down their weapons and fled with villagers as the North Vietnamese launched an unprecedented invasion. They expected 200 or so casualties but 2000 marched toward a 100 bed hospital 60 miles away. However many were mortared by Communists on Highway 13 and others accidentally killed by our B-52s. The Air Force accidentally missed the Communists and hit a South Vietnamese village! Pena joined a group of fifteen who worked the Operating Room confronted by death who built a strong companionship.

Soon a C-130 aircraft crashed from mechanical failure causing them to expect many casualties. Burn patients were the worst, difficult to look at, tough to treat, and many died. The first soldier's face appeared plastered red, hair and eyebrows burned away, red burns ran the length of his young body. He had a wife and young child.They smeared Sulfamylon cream over him feeling helpless. His coworker said he would soon die. A sergeant arrived with a broken ankle and numerous lacerations. These professionals knew the risks but it is for the young whom Pena felt the most sorry. The lifers have some control but not the draftees. The sergeant wanted to know how many survived but Pena couldn't tell him only three made it. Pena wondered how many were on the plane and learned there were forty five. The government released only the number fourteen. Such lies insulted Pena and the others. It added brainwashing to misinformation. C 130 Crashed in Vietnam

An allied Cambodian arrived by air in desperate condition and needed a transfusion from someone with B positive blood. Pena readily provided it as the only one with that type. The doctors said he couldn't survive the operation, yet he wouldn't live without one! They amputated his left leg and blood splattered all over the floor. A nineteen year-old soldier was shot in the head and died from his wound. An American asked him for a cigarette but he didn't have one, so he shot him in the back of the head at point blank range with a .38 pistol. A clean-cut man named Holley had a wife he never cheated on but once. He was found the next morning in a lover's embrace as the girl had put ground-up glass in his food, the sixth American that girl killed. Soon we understand how Pena felt an impermanence sweep over him and all his previous concerns seemed small and unimportant. Richard Pena President of the Texas State Bar Much later Pena became President of the American Bar Foundation and State Bar of Texas. His practice started as a solo attorney for the common person, without an office using an old beat up car. He felt his experience in Vietnam gave him the courage, willpower and confidence to stand up against injustice and fight for his clients. "It was the road less traveled, but it was my road." Published 2014 by Story Merchant Books, 9601 Wilshire Blvd. # 1202, Beverly Hills, Ca 90210

Bio: VVAW member Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship, turned peace activist and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his experiences:

http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ website: www.danielclavery.com.

  Last Plane Out of Saigon by Richard Pena

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Review of Greta Marsh’s Frankie and Jonny and Mommy too, by Daniel C. Lavery,

Govap Orphanage VietnamReview of Greta Marsh’s Frankie and Jonny and Mommy too, by Daniel C. Lavery, Written for VVAW’s “The Veteran”

One kind woman’s determination to adopt a Vietnamese War orphan, make this truly an inspirational story. Written in heartfelt verse, Marsh dramatically presents the struggle of one woman to adopt a Vietnamese orphan surviving at the Govap Orphanage. She hopes to save him from the ravages of the Vietnam conflict, where his parents were victims of the outrageous My Lai Massacre. Greta, a Jewish single parent, with three girls in college, wanted to find an orphan that her thirteen year-old son, Jonny, could help grow up in Long Island N.Y. with a loving family. Frankie was the name Jonny chose for the orphan in honor of his recently deceased grandfather.

Her first obstacle was an unexpected confrontation with discrimination despite her responsible job as a probation officer in Family Court where she worked with troubled children and single parents. The adoption agency sent her a letter stating she was unqualified to adopt because “Every child deserves two parents.” They would, however, permit her to adopt a physically or emotionally disabled child. Outraged, she wrote them: “Who is in greater need of 2 parents, a physically and/or emotionally disabled child or a relatively healthy child? You should be ashamed.” They did not respond.

Religious bigotry struck next when a local friendly Vietnamese Priest told her a child was waiting for her in Vietnam, but the agency told her twice: “We do home studies for Christian families.” She informed the Priest of the prejudice. He paused and then said he could not help. She wrote: “Dear Father, Jesus was a Jew who never left his religion and I do not think he is smiling kindly upon you.”

After many years of struggle Greta’s dream of adoption was fulfilled when she, her grandmother, Aunt, and thirteen year-old son, Jonny, arrived by plane in Vietnam. She finally adopted a five year-old boy baptized “David” who became “David Frank”. The family welcomed him with love. Soon Jonny felt sad for him because he looked scared but Greta ensured that Frankie would be a part of a compassionate family. They dressed him in an adorable suit and found a mixed breed Dachshund Frankie named Suzi for him. He learned soon to ice skate, draw, play piano, and liked to build sand castles on the beach.

Marsh adds a summary of the My Lai Massacre, military problems of rape, sexual harassment, suicide, civilian casualty statistics, Agent Orange, and the extension of the Vietnam War to Laos and Cambodia. The author says she intends the money earned from her book will be used to help wounded vets and their families. Greta Marsh’s wonderful story of how she succeeded in saving the life of a Vietnamese orphan who became integrated into a loving American family shines with the finest sparks of humanity. She reminds us at the end of her inspirational story the Talmud says: “To Save One Life is as if you have Saved the Entire World.”

Published by 1stWorld Publishing, P. O. Box 2211, Fairfield, Iowa 52556 ISBN: 978-1-4218-8663-3 Soft Cover ISBN: 978-1-4218-8664-0 Hard Cover

Bio: VVAW member Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship, turned peace activist and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his experiences: http://www.amazon.com/All-Difference-Daniel-C-Lavery/dp/1482676532/ website: www.danielclavery.com.  

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TEERA, A LIFE OF HOPE AND FULLFILLMENT

TEERA,

A LIFE OF HOPE AND FULFILLMENT

BY TEERA DE FONSEKA AND PATRICK MEISSNER

Review by Daniel C. Lavery (Bio follows)

map_of_sri-lanka

This unforgettable memoir takes you deep into the life of a woman born into a family of ten children on the island of Sri Lanka, thought of as utopia for those who travel. For Teera, named after a male child who died in infancy, Theodora, it was a youthful paradise, and later one of unspeakable tragedy. She changed it to Teera and was known by family as “Bubby.” Her parents escaped from Japanese zero raids on the island at Colombo near the south-western part of the island in 1942. They took refuge in a warm cottage near a beach with coconut trees. “Sea Breeze” was carved in a sign that gave tribute to the ocean and the serenity of home where Bubby was born in November of 1943.

SRI LANKA BEACH

Her parents were a loving, church-going couple, who joked that they were royalty because Papa was named Charles, and Mom, Victoria. They didn’t care that King Charles and Queen Victoria had died decades ago, or Prince Charles was a baby then. Her dad was an energetic architect who drove one of five genuine Honda motorcycles on the island. Of course he parked it in the living room to protect it from thieves. Her mother complimented him with her loving personality, grace, singing voice, swimming skill, and beauty.

Postage stamp King Charles

Teera’s active athletic youth was followed all too soon by a savage attack on her and her husband that changed everything. It killed her loving husband and left her with a hideous scar from cheek to cheek, “like a brown frown” that no plastic surgery could hide. All because of a piece of property a jealous criminal wanted for himself. That beast used a machete thinking he had hit her husband in the dead of night but slashed Teera’s face luckily not cutting her head off. Then he killed her husband, his intended target.

Ceylon Stamp 1954 with Queen

Her extraordinary memoir is also about deep religious faith that inspired her determination to make her painful journey to freedom despite repeated brutal episodes with her new husband, Maxie. He could not hold a job, was a liar and a drunk, beat her, and repeatedly threatened her life and put fear into her children.

Ceylon and India

The GOOD SHEPHERD SISTERS, especially Sister Finbarr, the Welcome House, the All Saints Church, some parishioners, and a few of her relatives, came to her rescue time and again from Maxie. This repeated abusive pattern usually involved his binging with alcohol instead of using Teera’s hard earned money from work to pay for the children’s school, followed by paranoid false accusations that Teera was seeing another man, a brutal beating, and forced relations. He created such an atmosphere of fear, Teera had to move from rental house to house to try to avoid him and send her children to relatives for protection. Despite this she worked for seventeen years for Browns Group.

Eventually, her elder brother Cyril, living in California sized-up the dire situation. He proposed she get a divorce finalized granting her custody of the children. Maxie had to sign his consent so she could qualify to come to the United States, and Cyril would sponsor her for immigration that would never happen otherwise. Eventually the plan would allow her to then sponsor the children after she had a job, a place to call home, and begin a new life.

Ceylon  image water and building

Surprisingly, Maxie agreed under pressure in jail, and off Teera sped on a flight to Los Angeles. Recall of her first view of freeways, shopping centers, and a metropolis is breathtaking—a classic example of a person used to a simple way of life in natural surroundings, suddenly transported into the modern world. She struggled working odd jobs, learned to interview better and drop her English accent, cleaned homes, but always keeps her faith strong by constant contact with a local church. Parishioners helped her find a solid job, she developed confidence, and invited her children to join her once they qualified for immigration. Her strength, constantly challenged by circumstances beyond her control, secured by her faith, and friendships, helped her climb an auspicious mountain. What a remarkable scene she creates when she welcomes her children to a new life in a country that promised opportunity to all willing to better themselves.

From the depths of despair to the height of euphoria, Teera’s life story presents how one woman overcame tremendous life-threatening challenges. She never gave up despite the odds against her becoming successful and her children ever finding a chance to flourish. This feel-good inspirational memoir grips us from the beginning and carries us through to the end as a page turner one cannot put down. Nothing compares to the truth of our human struggles in a real life story to grab our attention and shout “Hurrah” as Teera accomplishes a miracle beyond belief.

Bio: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship, turned peace activist and became a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his experiences. www.danielclavery.com.

NOTE: Teera, is having a book signing Saturday  Sept. 5 from 2- 4 PM at Crown Books 6100 Topanga Canyon Blvd #1340, Woodland Hills, CA 91367

PHONE 818 404 2291

There will be authentic music, refreshments, and Teera to share her inspirational story:

Here below is Teera and Dan at her book signing today where she and Patrick Meissner addressed the audience and a wonderful Sri Lankan soloist bellowed melodiously three popular vocals, at Crown Books. Sue served authentic food, with cookies, and refreshing drinks to a crowd of about forty. Teera's website is where you can find her book as well as on amazon.com: www.teeraslifejourney.com

Teera and Dan at book signing 9515

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The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini

As a high school student at an American High School at Yokohama, Japan, my English teacher required us to explore the world of history of a place and time in the past by reading and reporting on a world class autobiography. After looking at the choices available, I chose the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini. I brought the book home to discuss it with my naval officer Dad, Annapolis ’32 and Harvard grad school in electronics, and my new step-mother, two master’s degrees in History and Foreign Languages from U. C. Berkeley. She had been a high school principal before she married Dad to allow him to bring his children to Japan. Dad scoffed at the choice and wanted me to study military history. His wife disagreed emphasizing what an extraordinary experience it is to learn of an artist in a foreign country whose experiences are recorded in an autobiography of high repute. When I learned that Cellini was a rascal, wanted for many crimes, and nothing like the heroes other students were reading about, I was excited to learn from this highly regarded non-fiction historical book.

Benvenuto Cellini

Cellini lived from 3 November 1500 – 13 February 1571, was a goldsmith, sculptor, draftsman, soldier, musician, artist, poet, and autobiographer. Many contend Cellini’s considerable distinction is due more to his autobiography that recorded his life than it is to his extraordinary artistic creations. Those looking for adventure and intrigue will find it here as he was a wanted criminal for many charges. His autobiography began during the Romantic Movement, spoken to a helper where he worked and reads in idiomatic language. It begins with a rendition of Cellini’s episodes and creations in Rome, France, and the Florence of Cosimo de’ Medici. His hyperbole often boasts but preserves a genuine presentation of the place and time in his candid language.

Cellini's Salt Cellar (Salieri), 1543, in gold, enamel, and ivory

Cellini Salt Cellar

His notable works are too numerous to mention but they include his Cellini Salt Cellar (Salieri), 1543, in gold, enamel, and ivory; A sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa, now in Florence; Crafting metals, the most famous of which are "Hercules and the Nemean Lion", in gold raised in relief by hammering on the reverse side, and "Atlas supporting the Sphere", in chased gold.

Cellini A sculpture of Perseus with the head of Medusa

Perseus with the head of Medussa

Cellini Hercules and the Nemean Lion, in gold

Hercules and the Namean Lion

Cellini Atlas Supporting the sphere

Atlas supporting the sphere

Some of his female models were known mistresses, but he was bi-sexual. He was officially accused of sodomy with one woman and three men according to records. He even wrote of his planned murders in his autobiography before carrying them out. This book transported me into a wholly unknown world four hundred years ago that showed expertise I could never imagine. The value of such graphic descriptions of life in the distant past makes for an awareness that the people were much like me when the same age, but went in directions unique to me at my age thereafter. It was an adventure in making the past come alive in real people and actions that helped me imagine a life I thought I would never emulate. When a naïve teenager, it made me aware of much more than I thought possible in my high school education and frightened me with its frankness. It awakened me to the artistic, erotic, and dangerous world I might soon enter when I matured. I was fascinated by Cellini’s wildness and creativity. This was one of the best examples of how non-fiction can bring the past alive.

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