This Date in UCSF History: Jane Fonda Protests Vietnam War at UCSF
Originally published in Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper, April 13, 1973.
At a Wednesday noon gathering actress Jane Fonda reaffirmed her contention that returning American POW’s are exaggerating their tales of torture at the hands of the South Vietnamese.
“Most of the guys who are telling these torture stories are older men, they are hawks, they are balding careerists, officers,” she told an audience of approximately 300 people gathered in the quad in front of the Nursing building.
“Who is it that is orchestrating this wave of press conferences,” she asked. “How long will it take us to recognize the fact that there is a handful of
prisoners, less than 20 out of over 500, who are coming back and giving us the impression that it is systematic policy of the Vietnamese to torture American prisoners.
“How long will it take us to understand that the men that are telling the different stories are being threatened with court martials. How long will it take us to stand up and say we will not allow ourselves to be used like this. It is we, not the POW’s, who have been brainwashed,” said Ms. Fonda.
Sponsored by the UCSF Medical Committee For Human Rights, Ms. Fonda told the crowd that the American people must not forget what their pilots were doing in Vietnam or they would run the risk of losing their souls and their minds.
“These pilots weren’t kidnapped from the golf course at Fort Ord, they weren’t kidnapped from the PX at Fort Bragg,” she said, “they did their missions as routinely as dropping the mail. We must remember that these men are no heroes.”
As she spoke a miniature parachute with a small American flag attached to the end of it floated down behind her from a top floor of the Medical Sciences Building.
In describing her visits to North Vietnam to the audience Ms. Fonda said the people told her that they did not hold the American people responsible for the war, but the American government.
“We know who our enemy is” they told her.
She said the North Vietnamese were well informed about the antiwar activities in America.
“Our marches at home meant to the Vietnamese people that we were not all good Germans,” Ms. Fonda said, referring to Nazi tactics used during WW II.
As cans were passed for donations to help aid medically the people of North Vietnam, Ms. Fonda said that making sure the provisions of the peace agreement are adhered to should be “our banner of struggle today.”
She said that Article 9, Section C of the agreement, which reads, “Foreign countries shall not impose any political tendancy or personality on the South Vietnamese people”, has already been violated by President Nixon in his words to support for visiting President Nguyen van Thieu.
Critical of Thieu, Ms. Fonda said that she thought it is unlikely that his government would allow their political rivals to return to their homes in the North by the April 27th deadline set by the agreement for return of refugees.
She said that people in the South were not being allowed to return to their homes in the North.
“What does she think they have to go home to?” muttered one dental student as he stood up to leave. “Their ‘homes’ have been obliterated.”
“Nixon still wants to keep the North Vietnamese a faceless people,” she said.
That is why he didn’t invite them here to talk about reconstruction.
During the question and answer period which followed the 60-minute speech a member of the audience identified himself as an ex-Vietnam veteran in the medical field and challenged Ms. Fonda to let his Vietnamese wife give her side of the story.
Placing her hat on her head to complete the traditional Vietnamese dress he pointed her toward the speakers area. Cries of “Let her speak!” came from the curious audience.
Unfortunately, even with microphone, in hand, she was unable to project as well as Ms. Fonda.
“Why should we believe you?” challenged another spectator.
“There is no reason you should believe me,” said Ms. Fonda, “but what you should know is who has been lying.”