The Shoeleather History Project

Stories from Hartford's Grassroots

On Memorial Day, No Business as Usual

imageI took this photo with my Instamatic on October 15, 1969. I was in Hartford at the anti-war demonstration known as the Vietnam Moratorium. That day, 90,000 people at protests around Connecticut joined together to stop what they were doing and concentrate on the enormous costs of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia. There was no business as usual that day for millions of people around the country.

For many folks of my generation (that’s right, boomers) the Vietnam War shaped how we viewed our government’s place in the world, and we weren’t happy about it.

In our eyes, the War and its leaders were exposed as criminals, an opinion I still firmly hold. I was less concerned, at the time, with the soldiers who came home in boxes than with the deadly U.S. foreign policy, violence of poverty in north Hartford and massive inequalities exposed by the civil rights movement.

But this sign made me stop and think.

Barry Jackson was one of the 612 Connecticut men killed in the War. He was an African American from Bloomfield who was killed on March 18th. His father Allen attended the October rally in Hartford with the hand-made sign that caught my eye. It read “My son was killed in Vietnam- For what?” Anti-war protests came too late for Barry Jackson’s family.

Barry had won a number of medals, “but these medals don’t make up for his life,” Allen Jackson explained. Barry should not have gone to Vietnam because, in Mr. Jackson’s mind, “it’s an illegal war.” Allen Jackson thought his presence at the Moratorium might help open the eyes of other people.

The local American Legion and the VFW condemned the protests, arguing that dissent would only endanger U.S. combat troops. An ever-increasing number of soldiers disagreed. Many Vietnam veterans saw the Moratorium as a time to finally speak out publicly against the war they had survived.

At least 60 Vietnam veterans joined the Hartford rally. One young vet who had been wounded in the legs and chest told a newspaper that he marched because “you find you’re not fighting for anything, you’re just fighting to save your life.” Vietnam was a suicide mission, he said.

Forty vets at Mattatuck Community College in Waterbury made their anti-war sentiment known during a school event. In Enfield, Navy veteran Richard Howland and WWII veteran Eugene Sweeney addressed the local peace rally. Veteran George Smith and former Marine captain Newbold Morris addressed a West Hartford crowd. Dean Erickson told protesters in New Britain “over there I was shown that the Vietnamese do not want foreign domination, and that’s why I’m here now.”

Ten thousand American troops were killed just in 1969. A total of 58,313 died overall. During the week of the Moratorium, Connecticut fatalities grew as well:

–Marine Pvt. Richard Stolarun, 19, of New Britain, died of his wounds on October 12th.

–Lt. Thomas Frazier, Jr., 20, of Granby and Army Pfc Charles Bachman of Norwalk were both killed in action the next day.

–Mr. and Mrs. Norman Manning received their son’s Silver Star that week. James had been killed in July after having been awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

–On October 16th, Pfc James Dufault of Moosup was killed in combat. Dufault became the 466th Connecticut resident to be killed in Vietnam.

This Memorial Day we remember the troops sacrificed on too many battlefields to maintain our country’s imperial dominance around the world. There is no holiday for the civilians killed in the War (six million from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) or the wars since then.

Allen Jackson would want us to keep asking: for what?

 

2 comments on “On Memorial Day, No Business as Usual

  1. Lew Brown
    June 5, 2016

    Steve.. Allen Jackson was a Black Activist. As I remembered Hartford’s African American Community based primarily in the North end Mr. Jackson’s Family were “go getters” and entrepreneurs. Residing on Bellevue Street they sold door to door block by block Mother’s Day Flowers, Hog Head Cheese all with a theatrical flair. The Jackson Family were proud people. The death of Mr. Jackson’s son in Vietnam like many other Hartford Area residents “shattered” his perspective about the war once relative facts were reported about why America was fighting in South East Asia.

    Be Well, William M. (Lew) Brown

    On Sat, Jun 4, 2016 at 12:53 PM, The Shoeleather History Project wrote:

    > Steve Thornton posted: “I took this photo with my Instamatic on October > 15, 1969. I was in Hartford at the anti-war demonstration known as the > Vietnam Moratorium. That day, 90,000 people at protests around Connecticut > joined together to stop what they were doing and concentrate ” >

  2. Steve Thornton
    June 11, 2016

    Lew- you are a gold mine of important Hartford history I hope you are writing a book! Thanks as always for your valuable contributions. They make my research so much more relevant! –Steve

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This entry was posted on June 4, 2016 by in Hartford.

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