TIME conflict

Read the Letter That Changed the Way Americans Saw the Vietnam War

American "Huey" helicopters during My Lai massacre
Ronald L. Haeberle—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty American military helicopters in flight during the My Lai massacre on Mar. 16, 1968 in My Lai, South Vietnam

The My Lai Massacre took place on Mar. 16, 1968

It was late April of 1968 when Ronald Ridenhour “first heard of ‘Pinkville’ and what had allegedly happened there.”

Thus began the letter that he sent to several government officials, including President Richard Nixon, in March, 1969. What followed was an account of the March 16, 1968, massacre at My Lai. “Ridenhour did not witness the incident himself, but he kept hearing about it from friends who were there,” TIME, which misidentified him as “Richard,” recounted after the news became public. “He was at first disbelieving, then deeply disturbed.”

That letter would soon change the way American citizens thought and talked about the war in Vietnam. This is how Ridenhour described what had happened:

One village area was particularly troublesome and seemed to be infested with booby traps and enemy soldiers. It was located about six miles northeast of Quang Nh,ai city at approximate coordinates B.S. 728795. It was a notorious area and the men of Task Force Barker had a special name I for it: they called it “Pinkville.” One morning in the latter part of March, Task Force Barker moved out from its firebase headed for “Pinkville.” Its mission: destroy the trouble spot and all of its inhabitants.

When “Butch” told me this I didn’t quite believe that what he was telling me was true, but he assured me that it was and went on to describe what had happened. The other two companies that made up the task force cordoned off the village so that “Charlie” Company could move through to destroy the structures and kill the inhabitants. Any villagers who ran from Charlie Company were stopped by the encircling companies. I asked “Butch” several times if all the people were killed. He said that he thought they were men, women and children. He recalled seeing a small boy, about three or four years old, standing by the trail with a gunshot wound in one arm. The boy was clutching his wounded arm with his other hand, while blood trickled between his fingers. He was staring around himself in shock and disbelief at what he saw. “He just stood there with big eyes staring around like he didn’t understand; he didn’t believe what was happening. Then the captain’s RTO (radio operator) put a burst of 16 (M-16 rifle) fire into him.” It was so bad, Gruver said, that one of the men in his squad shot himself in the foot in order to be medivaced out of the area so that he would not have to participate in the slaughter. Although he had not seen it, Gruver had been told by people he considered trustworthy that one of the company’s officers, 2nd Lieutenant Kally (this spelling may be incorrect) had rounded up several groups of villagers (each group consisting of a minimum of 20 persons of both sexes and all ages). According to the story, Kally then machine-gunned each group. Gruver estimated that the population of the village had been 300 to 400 people and that very few, if any, escaped.

After hearing this account I couldn’t quite accept it. Somehow I just couldn’t believe that not only had so many young American men participated in such an act of barbarism, but that their officers had ordered it.

The full letter, which is widely available these days, ran to about 2,000 words worth of evidence that “something very black indeed” had happened. Further publicity came in the form of an investigation by reporter Seymour Hersh — which originally ran in a Washington news service after LIFE magazine rejected it.

In the fall of 1969, one of the leaders of the platoon implicated in the massacre — his name was actually spelled Calley — was charged with murdering civilians; other charges against other soldiers and officers followed. Comparisons to the Nuremberg Trials were many, especially as many of the soldiers there argued that they had just been following orders. There were several legal difficulties in pursuing a lawsuit against them, both logistical and sentimental, as TIME polls found that many Americans either did not believe Ridenhour’s account or thought that such killing was a natural result of war.

Several trials did move forward, however. In 1971, Calley was found guilty. (Other trials for those present continued, but Calley was the only one convicted.) The sentencing did not end My Lai’s reverberations. At a protest in New York, future Secretary of State John Kerry read this statement: “We are all of us in this country guilty for having allowed the war to go on. We only want this country to realize that it cannot try a Calley for something which generals and Presidents and our way of life encouraged him to do. And if you try him, then at the same time you must try all those generals and Presidents and soldiers who have part of the responsibility. You must in fact try this country.” The verdict split the U.S. between those who thought that punishments for the massacre should instead go all the way up to the Commander-in-Chief, and those who thought that condemning soldiers for killing was a travesty in its own right.

“The crisis of conscience caused by the Calley affair is a graver phenomenon than the horror following the assassination of President Kennedy,” TIME opined. “Historically, it is far more crucial.”

Though the nation was divided at the time, history has come out fairly firmly on one side: in 1998, three men who turned their weapons on fellow soldiers instead of My Lai residents were honored in Washington — shortly before Ridenhour died at 52 of a heart attack — and in 2009 Calley apologized for his role in what happened. “There is not a day that goes by,” he said, “that I do not feel remorse.”

Read TIME’s 1969 issue about the fallout from My Lai: The Massacre: Where Does the Guilt Lie?

See how LIFE reported on My Lai: American Atrocity

TIME India

Thousands Set to Attend March to Protest Rape of Elderly Nun in India

The 74-year-old nun was sexually assaulted by six attackers who also ransacked the convent where she worked

Thousands of Indians are expected to take to the streets of the eastern city of Kolkata on Monday to protest the rape of an elderly nun that took place over the weekend.

Thomas D’Souza, the city’s Archbishop, condemned the “inhuman act” in a statement, according to the BBC. “It has brought a lot of shame and pain to all concerned,” he said.

The 74-year-old nun, who was sexually assaulted by six attackers after they burgled and vandalized her convent, is currently in a stable condition at a local hospital. Ten men have been arrested in connection with the incident, although none of them resemble the alleged assailants who were caught on CCTV cameras.

Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of the state of West Bengal, where Kolkata is situated, vowed quick and severe consequences for the perpetrators when they are found. The state police’s special investigative branch has reportedly taken over the investigation.

[BBC]

TIME Civil Rights

5 of the Most Influential Protests in History

Kapadwamj, India, 6th May, 1930, Gandhi volunteers in camp at Kapadwanj watching members of their band making salt following the civil disobedience riots and demonstrations demanding the boycotting of British goods and the arrest of leader Mahatma Gandhi
Popperfoto—Getty Images Protestors watching members of their band making salt following the civil disobedience riots and demonstrations demanding the boycotting of British goods and the arrest of leader Mahatma Gandhi in Kapadwamj, India on May 6, 1930.

On the 85th anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March, a look back at some of the world’s most important acts of defiance

When Mohandas Gandhi began his famous Salt March 85 years ago today, on Mar. 12, 1930, he couldn’t have known the influence it would wield on the history of India and the world. Not only did it play a major role in India’s eventual freedom from British rule, but it also went on to inspire future protestors to incredible acts of civil disobedience.

In honor of the anniversary, we’ve rounded up five major protests that served as inspiration for future protestors, from ancient times to the modern day.

1. Gandhi’s Salt March

Under British rule, Indians were prohibited from collecting or selling salt—Britain had a monopoly on that staple product, and taxed it heavily. Gandhi assembled his supporters in 1930 to march 240 mi. from his ashram to the Arabian Sea to collect salt from the ocean. The crowd snowballed along the way; more than 60,000 Indians were arrested for breaking the salt law. It was an ideal method of protest, because collecting salt was a completely non-violent activity and involved a commodity that was truly important to Indians. The protest continued until Gandhi was granted bargaining rights at a negotiation in London. India didn’t see freedom until 1947, but the salt satyagraha (his brand of civil disobedience) established Gandhi as a force to be reckoned with and set a powerful precedent for future nonviolent protestors, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Read TIME’s original 1930 cover story about the Salt March, here in the TIME Vault: Pinch of Salt

2. The March on Washington

By 1963, African Americans had been freed from slavery for a century yet continued to live lives burdened by inequality in every realm of society. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was intended to push lawmakers to pass legislation that address these inequalities, and its organizers were so successful that more than 200,000 supporters turned out for the action—double their estimate. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered perhaps the most famous speech in American history, his “I Have a Dream” address, at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and the leaders met with President Kennedy afterwards to discuss their goals. The march was credited with helping build support to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its messages of the hard work to build equality are echoed today from the Ferguson protests to President Obama’s recent speech in Selma, Ala.

3. Lysistrata

Though Aristophane’s comedy was fictional, it held real-life lessons for future generations: In the 5th-century-BC play, the protagonist organizes Greek women to agree not to have sex with their husbands and lovers until they can forge peace and end the Peloponnesian War. Silly as the concept may sound, sex strikes have been used as peacekeeping measures in modern societies from Colombia to the Philippines. Perhaps most notably, women in Liberia included a sex strike in their Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that successfully ended the 13-year Second Liberian Civil War—and got a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, elected. Sirleaf and organizer Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

4. The Self-Immolation of Thich Quang Duc

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk did not invent the act of burning oneself to death, but his self-immolation on the street in Saigon in 1963 to protest the treatment of Buddhists in South Vietnam shocked the world and created a horrific new genre of political protest. Like many forms of suicide, self-immolation proved contagious: other Vietnamese monks followed suit, as did an American in Washington, D.C. to protest the war. Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi is credited with sparking the Arab Spring uprising in 2010 with his self-immolation to protest his treatment by the oppressive government, and more than 100 Tibetans have self-immolated in the last five years in protest of Chinese rule.

5. Take Back the Night

Since the 1970s, events under the Take Back the Night umbrella have protested violence against women in the form of marches and rallies around the world, often in direct response to specific murders of women. The movement set a precedent for future actions concerned with female safety and sexuality, like SlutWalk, a march that began in 2011 to oppose a statement by a Toronto Police Constable that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” More recently, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has protested her university’s decision to allow her alleged rapist to remain on campus with her project “Carry that Weight,” in which she hauls her dorm mattress everywhere she goes.

Read TIME’s definitive ranking of the top 10 most influential protests of all time here.

TIME Civil Rights

Why the Woolworth’s Sit-In Worked

Civil Rights Activists At Atlanta University
Howard Sochurek—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images Holding protest sign is civil rights activist, Virginius B. Thornton. Civil Rights student leaders from all over the South at Atlanta University in May of 1960 to meet with Martin Luther King on desegregation strategy and organizing sit-ins.

Lunch-counter desegregation wasn't just a matter of ordering coffee

It was Feb. 1, 1960, when four black students sat down at Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., and ordered coffee. As TIME reported, “the white patrons eyed them warily, and the white waitresses ignored their studiously polite requests for service.”

Six years had passed since the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown vs. The Board of Education declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional — separate facilities were inherently unequal, argued Chief Justice Earl Warren — but Southern states (and even some cities in the North) clung desperately to their traditions of racial exclusion. Challenging Jim Crow through the legal system was a gradual, piecemeal process, and large numbers of Americans were growing impatient.

The four young men, freshmen at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College, remained seated until closing time, and returned with 300 more students a few days later, determined to integrate the whites-only five-and-dime.

This form of grassroots activism, known as a “sit-in,” spread to cities in nearly every Southern state over the next several weeks. TIME credited the “unique protest against Jim Crow” with initiating a wave of demonstrations that “raced from North Carolina to South Carolina to Virginia to Florida to Tennessee and into Deep South Alabama.” Although the sit-ins “washed up some familiar flotsam: the duck-tailed swaggerers, rednecked hatemongers, [and] the Ku Klux Klan,” they also attracted sympathy from white college students, as well as those in Northern cities; picketers marched outside of Woolworth’s and similar variety stores in New York, Madison, and Boston.

Woolworth’s desegregated in July of 1960, with other stores and restaurants following suit.

The lunch-counter sit-ins spawned wade-ins at pools and beaches, kneel-ins at churches, read-ins at libraries, and walk-ins at theaters and amusement parks. Those who participated in these direct actions had to maintain stoic composure in the midst of white harassment, both verbal and physical. Many were careful to adhere to white standards of “respectable” grooming, dress, and manners, even as they disrupted deep-rooted racial etiquette. In some cities, stubborn officials simply shut down public parks and pools rather than integrating them, but the strategy worked in many others.

Sit-ins were not new — the NAACP as well as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organized them in both the North and the South following World War II — but in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a national movement emerged. The sit-ins mattered not only because they worked, but also because they mobilized tens of thousands of people to participate in an assortment of confrontational acts that made up the civil rights movement.

The same went for boycotts, which had been used as a strategy for addressing racial inequality since the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” actions of the Depression-Era North, in which blacks refused to shop at stores that would not hire them as employees. Their efforts were often stymied by court injunctions against picket lines, and their success was heavily dependent on local press coverage, but the boycotts ultimately yielded hundreds of jobs for blacks in cities like Chicago and Cleveland. Activists revived this strategy during 1950s and 1960s, stressing the importance of economic opportunities in black communities. The most well-known boycott in American history took place in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. After several black women, including Rosa Parks, were arrested for refusing to give up their bus seats to white passengers, African Americans organized a boycott of the city’s bus system. It lasted 381 days, with an estimated 40,000 participants. TIME described the boycott as a “powerful economic weapon,” and indeed, African Americans accounted for 75% of Montgomery’s bus ridership. In 1956, the Supreme Court ruled that segregated seating on public transit violated the 14th Amendment.

Likewise, the 1963 March on Washington, where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, had roots in 1940s civil rights activism. In 1941, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin mobilized 100,000 people to march on the nation’s capital in order to protest racial discrimination in the U.S. military. No march actually took place that year; the planning alone effectively pressured President Roosevelt to issue an executive order desegregating the war industries. But the idea for a Washington march never fully disappeared, and the climate of protest in the 1960s gave it new life. In 1963, Randolph and Rustin, with help from an assortment of civil rights leaders and groups, organized what was then the largest political rally in American history.

What all of these social-movement strategies had in common was that they disrupted business-as-usual and used public space to make a spectacle that commanded attention. Even when they failed to provoke the type of literal confrontation that occurred in 1965 on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they had symbolic power. Although the news coverage that these events received was not universally supportive, an enormous amount of media focus both on television and in the papers ultimately bolstered the cause of civil rights. By 1960, almost every American had a television set, and could watch the movement unfold on the evening news. Images of nonviolent protesters enduring brutal beatings swayed public opinion in favor of the movement.

Subsequent American social movements recognized the power of the sit-in, and modified it to address their own struggles. In the 1970s, for instance, gay liberation activists organized “kiss-ins” at anti-gay businesses as a way of promoting visibility and awareness, and during the 1980s, AIDS advocacy group ACT-UP staged “die-ins” in Manhattan, to represent the magnitude of a health crisis that had been neglected by the government. Recently, die-ins have been used to protest police brutality.

The protest tactics of the civil rights movement, from the Woolworth’s sit-ins to the Selma marches, demonstrate the power of ordinary people taking collective action. These strategies ultimately paved the way for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Just as importantly, they allowed black Americans to express a sense of dignity and self-worth that had been consistently, violently denied to them. In this way, they were precursors to today’s social justice activism, particularly the #blacklivesmatter call to action against police brutality. We can see such current protests as the continuation of a long and unfinished grassroots movement. Now as in the 1960s, victories depend on strength in numbers as well as the instrumental role of the media in shaping a narrative of the struggle.

Sascha Cohen is a PhD candidate in the history department at Brandeis University. Her dissertation explores American humor in the 1970s and 1980s. Her own satirical writing can be found in McSweeneys.

TIME conflict

‘There Was All This Chaos': Vietnam-Era Antiwar Activists Reflect

LIFE Books

Read an excerpt from LIFE's book 'The Vietnam Wars: 50 Years Ago--Two Countries Torn Apart'

For LIFE’s recent book revisiting the events of the Vietnam War, Daniel S. Levy and photographer Joe McNally visited people who had been involved in many sides of the conflict, including the anti-war movement. On the anniversary of the Jan. 30, 1968, beginning of the Tet Offensive — a campaign that energized such protests — we present the following excerpt of Levy’s conversations with four key anti-war activists from that time:

Richard Flacks was, in the 1960s, teaching at the University of Chicago and the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a cofounder of the famous Students for a Democratic Society. Vivian Rothstein was a community activist. Abe Peck was a member of Chicago’s underground press. Ross Canton was a decorated soldier who, upon returning home, joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Here, during a sit-down with Levy in Santa Barbara, California, this group discusses not only their shared antiwar past but how they view their legacy today.

LIFE: How did you get involved in the antiwar movement?

Rothstein: I got recruited in the Mississippi freedom summer program in 1965. I decided I wanted to be an organizer. Then I got invited by Tom Hayden to go to a conference in 1967 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, to meet representatives of the provisional revolutionary government in South Vietnam, to actually meet the grass-roots opposition in South Vietnam. From that I got invited to go to North Vietnam. The experience crystalized my commitment to end the war.

Canton: I was one of those poor white draftees. I was neutral with the war, until I got drafted. My first day out in the field in Vietnam our point man got wounded by a nine-year-old kid, and I thought, So that’s the enemy? I was in the field three weeks when I got wounded the first time. The third time I spent nine and a half months in the hospital. I had shrapnel in my brain and was not supposed to survive. But I did. It crystallized my feelings about the war and how I was very angry. Once I got out I joined the Monterey chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Flacks: I went to teach at the University of Chicago in 1964. A few months later a group of people in Ann Arbor [Michigan] started the action, which they called a “teach-in.” Classrooms were used for debate, discussion, forums about the war. By the end of the academic year there were a thousand campuses where something like a teach-in had occurred. To me, that was the step I needed. I then devoted a great deal of my energy to being active in that role as a professor and as a campus leader.

Peck: I tumbled into the movement. I went to the Summer of Love in San Francisco, five guys in a Volkswagen van. My pivotal moment was driving to the Pentagon Demonstration in 1967. I saw everything from people putting flowers in guns to people storming the building to just having a sense of just how outraged we all were by the war.

LIFE: What did your families think of this?

Flacks: My parents were schoolteachers in New York, active in building a union. In the McCarthy Red Scare era, they both were purged along with several hundred other left-wing, commie-oriented teachers. I was 25 by the time I was taking a stand against the war. They supported me.

Canton: I grew up with a single mother who did the best she could. My father, an Italian immigrant, joined WWII early on, and was in the 101st Airborne for five years. Got wounded. He would have been prowar.

Peck: My parents weren’t radicals at all. My dad was a liberal Democrat, very working class.

Rothstein: My mother had a progressive heart, but we were raised with this sense that we lived in an ominous world that could turn against you at any moment. But when she heard me speak about my trip to Vietnam, she got herself involved.

LIFE: Describe the time, if you would.

Rothstein: When I went away to college that first fall, Kennedy got shot. There was a sense that it was a chaotic political environment. We weren’t being told what was going on. That engagement in the civil rights movement and the free speech movement gave the feeling that you could actually make a difference, that you needed to take a stand. I think we felt a sense that we could actually help end the war.

Flacks: The draft was an expression of this militaristic, imperial power that we were opposed to. I was in the early founding of the Students for a Democratic Society. We thought we were responsible for having to have an antiwar movement. We thought the demonstrations of larger numbers of people would have an effect on policy, and that was perhaps naïve. A new lever that SDS perceived for a change of the policy was people being forced to fight the war had the opportunity to resist it. It was a strategic kind of effort: We who were in opposition to the war, if we ourselves refused to fight, and got other people to refuse to fight, the policy would have to be reexamined.

Peck: A lot of it was exhilarating, the idea that you could set the country on the right way, change the world, build a new society, stop the war. There was a concept of “right action”—that this was really the thing to do. I had great trepidation about the Chicago Convention in 1968, but I still had to go to the park. You had to show up.

LIFE: Did dissidents have regular contact with the veterans?

Rothstein: There was the GI coffeehouse movement. These were independent coffeehouses that were set outside the bases. Women staffed those. I helped to recruit people. I worked at Fort Leonard Wood. The idea was not to push any kind of line. But there was antiwar material there and underground newspapers. It was a very subversive strategy, because it was a place where guys could talk about what was really going on. It was brilliant.

Peck: There was this kind of ring around the military to support people making decisions of conscience.

Canton: Returning veterans who were against the war were very dangerous, because we could tell what was true and what was not true. The whole idea of winning the war was deflated by all these Vietnam veterans coming back and saying that is not true. That really took hold. After [I spent] time in the hospital, I went back to Fort Ord and trained troops to go to Vietnam. We gave them the straight line. We told them that it was all bullshit.

LIFE: What was your experience with the mistreatment of vets?

Canton: It never happened to any of the Vietnam veterans I was associated with—getting spit on at the airport, “baby killer!” and all those kinds of things. By 1969 there was a coalescence of trying to have the veterans and the soldiers be a part of the antiwar movement and not disenfranchising them because they served over there.

LIFE: How were women in the antiwar movement viewed?

Rothstein: The [anti] draft movement was very focused on men. Eventually we started building independent women’s organizations and did antiwar activities. Women Strike for Peace was in there from the very beginning, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and the Jeannette Rankin Brigade.

LIFE: If so many opposed the war, why was it so hard to stop?

Flacks: Both Johnson and Nixon said explicitly that no matter what public opinion said about the war, it would go on. It really [defies] explanation why, in the face of a popular mood against the war, these Presidents would feel they had to continue it. Vivian and I went to this conference in Bratislava, meeting the Vietcong, the North Vietnamese folks. They wanted to tell us that the U.S. had been defeated in the war, that there was no conceivable military strategy that the U.S. could deploy that would allow the U.S. to win. There was insight there into the limits of American power. It was reinforced a few months later during the Tet Offensive.

LIFE: So, at the end of the day, were all the protests useful?

Flacks: If you add up the numbers of protests after Kent State, it is the largest mass demonstration in American history.

Rothstein: The amazing thing is hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to oppose this war. That they cared that much, that they would put themselves at risk—it is really remarkable. What could you think of today where hundreds of thousands of Americans would get up off their couches and demonstrate?

Peck: A lot of good things came out of that period amid the tumult and the personal destruction.

Rothstein: Things have changed. There is no draft. Nobody can get over there to meet with the enemy and see what is going on. The press has to be embedded. They have changed the conditions.

LIFE: Talk about the radicalization and splintering of the movement.

Rothstein: There was all this chaos. The black communities were exploding. Martin Luther King was assassinated. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. There was a lot of agitation. There was a lot of militancy on campus, and the repression came in—Kent State, the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago, the attacks on demonstrators at the Democratic Convention. People felt like they were coming to get us. People felt like the stakes were really high, and we weren’t winning on the civil rights front, we were not winning on the antiwar front. I think some people became adventurist because they couldn’t figure out a strategy that was going to work. It was a totally wrong strategy. You don’t end an international conflict by breaking storefront windows.

Peck: People got extraordinarily frustrated. There were internal revolutions. It splintered . . . It was almost a Revolution of the Week Club.

Canton: We were having infiltrators. The FBI parked out in front of my house. Everybody who was a leader in the Monterey chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War had their phones tapped and were followed.

Peck: During the Democratic Convention our paper’s windows were shot out and the only car on the street was a police car. The FBI came to look for my parents to find out more about me. They couldn’t find my parents, but they found Mrs. Schwartz, my neighbor. And they asked, “What kind of boy was he?” and she said, “Oh, he always held the elevator doors.”

Flacks: The founding people and elected leaders of the Students for a Democratic Society were on [an FBI] list. In May 1969, a guy called me who said he was a newspaper reporter wanting to interview me about student protests. He attacked me . . . and left me there bleeding. There was the Legion of Justice, a vigilante group. There is circumstantial evidence they were perpetrating this kind of activity and operating in connection with government intelligence.

Rothstein: I was organizing youth in Berwyn and Cicero, Illinois. We started a coffeehouse in a church, and the Legion of Justice shot crossbow arrows into the church. They found it so threatening that young people would sit and just talk about life, the draft or maybe whether they wanted to go to college. Nobody got hit. I remember going into meetings and being greeted by the Chicago police officer who was with the Chicago Red Squad, “Hey, Vivian. How are you doing?” They knew every person’s name.

Flacks: Whatever splintering there was, there was [also] a thread of more strategic action. People like Tom Hayden, Jane Fonda and others organized a campaign to get Congress to stop appropriating money for the war. And that was successful.

The shocking thing is that the American majority turned against the war in the late ’60s. The morale of the troops was collapsing by the late ’60s. Establishment intellectuals were writing about how the youth of America was turning against the society. And yet it still took six years for the war to be brought to an end after that.

LIFE: Looking back, your final thoughts?

Peck: I don’t have laments. We were learning as we went. As the Grateful Dead would say, it certainly was a long, strange trip. Being in the underground press gave me a really enduring appreciation of the First Amendment, which I have always defended since then.

Rothstein: For years I was very fearful that anybody would know about me going to North Vietnam. In those days it was considered a traitorous thing to do. Now it’s a really great thing to say I did. When I was in Vietnam, the Vietnamese said, “You are the true sons and daughters of Washington and Jefferson.” They had a real sense of an American tradition. I think in retrospect, what I did was in the best interests of the country.

Looking back now, we can all be proud we took those risks, but at that time we had no idea what it would be like in 40 or 50 years. I feel proud of the things that I did. I feel it took too long to end the war. I think history has not really taken on the Vietnam War and how right we were about the enormous destruction of Vietnam and the destruction it caused in our country. The antiwar movement is really not given the credit that I think we deserve.

Peck: There is no antiwar memorial.

Flacks: I would argue that at the time, the best interests of this country were not served by a leadership getting us into war but [by] the people who were trying to stop the war. [Also] I have a positive view of some of the changes in society that have come out of this period. The idea that the U.S. should fight that kind of war is illegitimate now. The draft is illegitimate. I can’t imagine a possibility of reviving conscription in this society. I know in my bones that if the move to restore the draft was made, there would be massive protests on college campuses right away.

The Vietnam War ended the capacity of people to be innocent and hopeful about political leaders. There is something healthy about that skepticism.

Canton: The reason we were out protesting was because we cared. It was about caring for certain types of freedoms—caring about certain things that were being done in our name. Most of us, our parents were immigrants who really came here for the American Dream. We grew up with that idea that it would be a new country, a new world and a better world. And it was a better world.

Peck: On a good day we wanted America to live up to its promise.

Canton: Yes. Exactly.

LIFE’s book The Vietnam Wars: 50 Years Ago–Two Countries Torn Apart is available here.

TIME Pakistan

Pakistanis Protest Charlie Hebdo Cover

Magazine printed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its post-terror attack cover

Demonstrators took to the streets in cities across Pakistan to protest the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo on Friday, two days after the newspaper published its first issue since the massacre at its offices by Islamist extremists.

Protesters clashed with police in Karachi, according to Reuters, and a photographer for the AFP was wounded amid the violence.

Charlie Hebdo, which has drawn the ire of some Muslims in the past for lampooning Islam among other subjects, published an issue on Wednesday less than a week after terror attacks across Paris left 17 dead, including eight of its journalists.

The cover of the issue, which has been criticized by Muslim leaders as a provocation, features a tearful Prophet Mohammed. Muslims consider any visual representation of the prophet to be blasphemous.

Sometimes violent protests have broken out in countries around the world, including in Niger and Sudan. But Muslim leaders elsewhere have appealed for restraint.

“Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons,” reads a statement on the Muslim Council of Britain’s website. “But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the prophet (peace be upon him).”

Read next: Pope Francis Speaks Out on Charlie Hebdo: ‘One Cannot Make Fun of Faith’

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME France

Paris March in Solidarity Against Terror Attacks Was Largest in French History

Heads of state joined about 1 million people expressing solidarity against terrorist strikes

Correction appended, Jan. 11.

Heads of state from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East flew into Paris on Sunday to take to the streets alongside an estimated 1 million people in the city — including the entire French government. It was the largest demonstration in the country’s history, showing defiance and unity in the wake of a week marked by tumultuous violence and deep emotion in France.

With an estimated 1 million people on the streets, French police posted sharpshooters on the roofs of the buildings starting Sunday morning, along the 2.5-mile route of the march. Helicopters buzzed over central Paris as the city awoke to what would be yet another day for the history books.

Before the march began, the atmosphere was peaceful and friendly. Hundreds of parents brought small children, carrying them on their shoulders through the jam-packed streets.

At one sidewalk café on the edge of Place de la République, two small girls sat drawing signs, one reading, “Pour la France, Pour Charlie.”

Many wore “Je Suis Charlie” attire, or draped themselves in French flags. There were hundreds of hand-drawn signs too, reading “Je Suis Juif,” or “I Am Jewish,” not necessarily from Jews, but rather a mark of solidarity for those killed in the kosher-supermarket siege on Friday.

The police presence was heavy. People chanted, “Liberté, egalité, fraternité” (Freedom, equality, brotherhood), “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie” (We Are All Charlie) and “On N’a Pas Peur” (We Are Not afraid). “Merci à la Police” got more applause than anything else.

The march kicked off at 3 p.m., Paris time, and began along its route from the city’s Place de la République, a wide-open plaza that dominates the congested neighborhoods of eastern Paris, to the Place de la Nation farther east.

World leaders brushed off the risks to their own safety and seemed determined to be in Paris, first as a show of solidarity with those killed, and also as a statement that they are — at least right now — united against terrorism. The three days of chaotic violence resulted in the deaths of 20 people, including three terrorists, who died in a blaze of police gunfire on Friday evening. “The reaction of people, and now the reaction of the whole world, is unprecedented,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Europe 1 radio on Sunday morning. “This afternoon, Paris will be the world capital in the fight against terrorism.”

As a measure of how much this week’s killings have moved the world, the attacks, and Sunday’s march, brought together those who are bitterly divided back at home, but who for just a few chilly hours on a January Sunday in Paris stood and walked together.

The extraordinary mix included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Among other leaders in the march were British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, King Abdullah II of Jordan, the leaders of Spain, Italy and Portugal, and numerous others from West and North Africa, and the Persian Gulf. Also in Paris is U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; Holder told reporters in Paris on Sunday that the White House would gather world leaders on Feb. 18 to discuss how to tackle extremism.

For Parisians, the weekend has brought a sense of both exhaustion and relief.

This week’s terrifying tumult — Wednesday’s massacre at the satirical Charlie Hebdo paper, Thursday’s shooting of police officers, and two violent hostage sieges on Friday — has left the country reeling and with much to contemplate: about the security of Paris, the country and Europe.

In a food market on Paris’ Left Bank on Sunday morning, the talk among vendors and shoppers focused almost solely on what everyone had experienced during the week. “Are you going to the march?” asked one woman to another. “Of course!” she replied. “Everyone is going.”

From early Sunday, hundreds of Parisians of all colors began pouring into Place de la République, which has been the focus of public mourning since Wednesday’s massacre, during which two brothers killed eight journalists, just a short walk away. The plaza has filled up with makeshift shrines of piles of flowers and candles; thousands of pens and pencils have been laid around the square’s huge fountain, in a symbolic tribute to the journalists killed in the attack. Eva Rosado, an 18-year-old studying in the northern city of Lille, said she had taken the train alone to Paris on Sunday, feeling she had to be at the march. “I haven’t been able to work at all this week,” she said. “I’ve woken up early every morning, wondering what is going to happen.”

Only 5 years old on 9/11, Rosado said that “this is the first attack I can really remember, and it has really affected me, the idea that people can come into central Paris with Kalashnikovs and kill people, it’s something I could never have imagined. But today at the march I feel safe, the security and police is very present.”

Laila Koumrane, an actress who moved to Paris from Morocco 15 years ago, brought her two children, ages 9 and 2, to the march. “We have a duty to show our children that we are not afraid. As Muslims, we have to condemn these acts of terrorism. I am proud to be here,” she said.

Leaving aside the raw emotions, there are urgent questions at stake. And well before the march began, leaders and officials gathering in Paris met to discuss issues that now are critically urgent. Chief among them: how to stop the wave of young Europeans who have joined jihadist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq from returning to mount terrorist attacks on home soil; how French intelligence failed to avert Wednesday’s attack; and how military-grade Kalashnikov rifles made their way into central Paris.

One of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, Saïd Kouachi, was well known to intelligence officers as having trained in Yemen with al-Qaeda’s franchise there; his brother Chérif had served time in jail for jihadist activities; and Amedy Coulibaly, who fatally shot a policewoman on Thursday and four hostages in a kosher supermarket on Friday, claimed his allegiance to the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, and has a girlfriend who is believed to have traveled to Syria last week to join the jihad.

The possibility of ISIS involvement in Paris’ attacks increased on Sunday, when a video emerged online showing Coulibaly with a Kalashnikov rifle under an ISIS flag, claiming that he had coordinated his attack this week with the Kouachi brothers.

Nonetheless, U.S. Attorney General Holder said Sunday that investigators do not yet have reliable information on which terrorist groups were responsible for the attacks.

Henry Querel, 55, who works for the Paris city council, said during Sunday’s march that the country should “ban people from going abroad to fight. But we cannot ban those that are already there from coming home if they are French citizens. We have to understand it’s brainwashing, they are not in their right mind.”

On Sunday morning top law-enforcement officials, including Holder, holed up at the French Interior Ministry in central Paris to discuss what to do. And despite the fact that all three of this week’s attackers are now dead, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Friday opted to keep in place a red-alert security-threat level nationwide, fearing that the week’s violence might not be over. “We are under threat,” he told reporters.

— With reporting by Naina Bajekal and Jay Newton-Small / Paris

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described a sign held at the massive unity march in Paris. The sign, which said Charlie Hebdo, Irresponsible Newspaper. Oil and Fire,” was quoting from a Charlie Hebdo cartoon, not criticizing the publication.

TIME Music

Paul McCartney Tried Writing a Protest Anthem for Garner Demonstrations

"The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles" - Roaming Show
Larry Busacca—Getty Images Paul McCartney performs onstage during "The Night That Changed America: A GRAMMY Salute To The Beatles" on Jan. 27, 2014 in Los Angeles.

"I was thinking recently about all these protests"

Paul McCartney has not given up on writing a protest anthem for demonstrations against the killing of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

“I was thinking recently about all these protests in New York and around the country,” he told Rolling Stone, “I thought it would be great to put something down about that, just to add my voice to the thousands of people walking in the streets.”

Nonetheless the former Beatle had to scrap his initial attempt to write a song, amid a struggle to find the right tone. “I’m not giving up on it,” he said.

Read more at Rolling Stone.

TIME Crime

Watch: New Yorkers Continue to Call for Justice for Eric Garner

New poll approves of New York's mayor handling of demonstrations

Two weeks after a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of a black man spurred waves of protests in New York City and around the country, some organizers of the protests will meet with the city’s mayor on Friday.

A poll released Wednesday reveals that the majority of New Yorkers approve of the way Mayor Bill de Blasio has handled the demonstrations taking place around the city to protest the killings of unarmed black men by police officers.

Earlier this week, thousands of New Yorkers poured out of Washington Square Park as part of Millions March NYC and demonstrators took to the streets in other cities to march in solidarity. These were the latest in a series of demonstrations following two separate grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men on Staten Island and in Ferguson.

Groups chanted, “I can’t breath,” the last words of Garner, the 43-year-old father of six who died in July by after a NYPD officer held him in a “chokehold”.

“We sit at home, we’re sad at what we see on the news, but it’s not enough to do that,” said a woman who identified herself as Robyn. “You have to make a stand and say what you believe,” she added. Robyn, who is a mother of three black sons, says that the safety of men like her sons is threatened by police.

“There is more white than black, more young than old,” a woman said of the individuals marching.

The phrase “black lives matter” served as a mantra for many demonstrators who voiced frustration regarding the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice, all killed by police within the past months.

“We felt like we wanted to be here as a family and be a part of the movement,” said Carrie Gleason, a white woman who participated in the march with her partner and small child. She added, “it is our responsibility like anybody else’s.”

TIME

The Most Powerful Protest Photos of 2014

There wasn't a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson to the student camps of Hong Kong

In 2011, TIME named the Protester as the Person of the Year, in recognition of the twin people-power earthquakes of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street. TIME named the Ebola Fighters as the 2014 Person of the Year, but you could have forgiven if we went back to the Protester. There wasn’t a corner of the planet untouched by protest this year, from the tear-gassed streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to the squares of Mexico City, to the impromptu student camps of Hong Kong. Many of the protests were remarkably peaceful, like Occupy Hong Kong, which was galvanized by public anger over the overreaction of the city’s police. Others turned bloody, like the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, Ukraine, which eventually brought down the government of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in turn triggering a war that led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in May and the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians.

Not every protest was as effective as those that began the year in the cold of Kiev. Hong Kongers still don’t have full democratic rights, gay rights are on the retreat in much of east Africa and every day seems to bring news of another questionable police killing in the U.S. But the wave of social action that ended 2014 is unlikely to crest in 2015. The ubiquity of camera phones means no shortage of iconic photographs and videos from any protest, whether in Lima or Los Angeles, and social media gives everyone the means to broadcast. What follows are some of the most powerful images from the global streets in 2014.

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