TIME conflict

Why Mar. 7, 1965, Was the End of an Era

LBJ Signs Civil Rights Bill
Warren Leffler / Getty Images President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights bill on April 11, 1968

The events of exactly 50 years ago marked both the climax and the beginning of the end of the last heroic age in American history

Seldom had the United States seemed to be more blessed than in early 1965. The country’s economy had been expanding steadily for four years, and unemployment was about 4%. Inflation, a serious problem in the late 1940s and early 1950s, was now negligible. Meanwhile, thanks to President Johnson’s predecessor, John F. Kennedy, the nightmare of nuclear war had retreated during the previous two years. The nation was freer to take care of its own needs, and it was building many thousands of miles of interstate highways and dozens of new schools and colleges to meet the needs of the Baby Boom generation, now between 5 and 22 years old. At the same time, Johnson was determined to push Medicare through Congress, making it possible for seniors to enjoy old age without the threat of illness that might not only take away their own savings, but those of their grown children.

One problem, however, still deeply troubled the nation: civil rights. For some weeks, Martin Luther King, Jr. had been leading a protest for voting rights in Selma, Ala., designed to open up voter registration rolls to the black citizens of that community, and, more broadly, of the whole deep south. Johnson had been preparing for possible additional legislative action to solve this problem for months, and the Justice Department had prepared a bill to allow the federal government to send registrars into the most affected states to sign up voters where local officials refused to do so. Johnson had been promising King such a bill for weeks, but he was waiting for an overwhelming northern consensus before putting the legislation before Congress

A dramatic event was necessary to get the attention of the whole nation, and on Sunday, Mar. 7, King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), along with the opposition of Sheriff Jim Clark of Selma and the Alabama State Police, provided it. Defying Alabama authorities, marchers were savagely beaten when they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. National television cameras captured the spectacle of troopers beating Americans who simply wanted to vote, and the momentum for action became irresistible. A week later, LBJ called for the voting rights act before a joint session of Congress, and concluded, “We Shall Overcome.”

The premise of the civil rights bills, in those days, was simple. The United States was on the right track. The nation’s extraordinary economic growth had given the mass of the American people an unprecedented standard of living. It had defeated totalitarian states in the Second World War and held the line against Communism in the 20 years that followed. It stood for freedom and opportunity. The exclusion of Negro Americans (as they were still called) from the rights, privileges and benefits of American life was a blot upon the nation and a contradiction to its values, one that had to be removed were the United States to live up to its promises. This belief, in the wake of the 1964 election, clearly enjoyed overwhelming support. Johnson had won 60% of the popular vote and 44 states against Barry Goldwater, who had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. LBJ could get virtually any proposal he wanted through Congress, and that was what he was about to do.

Yet on that very same day, Mar. 7, Johnson had already set in motion another series of events that would destroy not only his Presidency, but the entire postwar consensus which he seemed at that moment to embody. On March 7, U.S. Marines had landed in Da Nang—the first American ground forces to enter South Vietnam.

Several weeks earlier, in mid-February, the sustained bombing of North Vietnam had begun, in response to a Viet Cong attack on a US air base at Pleiku. Johnson calculatedly refused to acknowledge that the nation’s policy had changed, and the Administration portrayed the initial Marine deployment as a defensive measure. But that was false. The deployment was the first step in the execution of a massive war plan, one that would bring close to 200,000 young Americans into South Vietnam by the end of the year, and more than half a million by 1968.

Like the voting rights act, the landing at Da Nang had a long history, reflecting widely held beliefs in postwar America. It was the Eisenhower Administration, as I discovered twenty years ago when writing my book, American Tragedy, that had committed to defending Vietnam and neighboring Laos against Communist aggression. Eisenhower had been on the verge of implementing that commitment but Kennedy had immediately backed away from it. During the first year of his presidency Kennedy had received a long series of specific proposals from his cabinet and bureaucracy to send combat troops into Laos, Vietnam or both, but he had rejected them all and refused to declare South Vietnam a vital interest of the United States. Instead, he increased the American presence with 3,000 advisers and about 14,000 support troops, and focused on other foreign policy issues.

The public did not know this, but Johnson had announced that Vietnam was his Administration’s foreign policy priority within weeks of taking office. By March 1964 he had expressed willingness to go to war to save South Vietnam as soon as he had been re-elected himself. A planning exercise for American action began within days of his re-election, and it was finished by the first week of December. Sometime in the near future, the final paper stated, the United States would begin a sustained bombing campaign in North Vietnam, accompanied by “appropriate US deployments to handle any contingency.” An appendix to the approved document spelled out what that meant. The Marine battalion that had been floating in ships off Da Nang for months would land three days after the bombing began, and an entire Marine division would embark to join it. An Army brigade would follow at once, and several more divisions would arrive by the summer.

During the second half of February 1965, while the Selma protests grew and Great Society legislation began moving through Congress, Johnson refused to approve the war plan in writing, much less to announce it to the nation, but he evidently eventually told Robert McNamara to go ahead. After Da Nang, the other planned deployments followed the Marine landing almost at once. Johnson and his whole generation—the GI or “greatest” generation, as it has come to be known—believed in great enterprises. Civil rights was one such enterprise; defending threatened nations from Communism was another. With interstate highways spreading around the country, the Apollo program halfway underway and a booming economy, they—and most of their countrymen—thought they could do anything. More than a few prominent voices were already expressing skepticism about the Vietnam war, but they were drowned out.

Still, within two more years, the war had alienated much of the younger generation, substantially lowered Johnson’s popularity and split the Democratic Party. It also split the civil rights movement, and eventually broke the alliance between Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr. American participation continued until 1973, on a scale that would be unimaginable today. The entire roster of killed in action in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is still less than that incurred in six months of combat during 1968. But the war could not be won.

Tragic heroes, Aristotle argued, are brought down not by evil, but by a combination of their own ambition for greatness and an ignorance of the facts. So it was for Lyndon Johnson, the “best and the brightest” who served him and, indeed, the whole leadership class of the postwar United States. The biggest casualty of the war, one from which we still suffer, was the consensus, the optimistic spirit and the belief in our national purpose. The landing at Da Nang was the beginning of the end of one of history’s greatest eras of civic achievement. No American under 55 has ever experienced such a spirit, and it is not clear that any American now living will experience it again. That is the tragic legacy of the events of March 7, 1965.

The Long View

Historians explain how the past informs the present

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

TIME Asia

Seven Out of 10 Kids Across Five Asian Nations Experienced Violence at School

Indonesia reported the worst rate of school violence, with 84% of children having experienced it

Seven out of 10 children in Asia have experienced violence in school, a study of over 9,000 students across five countries revealed.

Conducted by children’s-rights group Plan under its Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools initiative, the study collected data from male and female students ages 12 to 17, as well as others involved in their education like parents, teachers and headmasters, in Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan and Nepal.

The study has several disturbing implications, with emotional violence being the most prevalent form of school harassment, followed by physical violence. More boys reported facing physical violence than girls did, and regressive gender attitudes are a significant contributor to school violence overall.

Indonesia showed the highest rate of gender-based violence in schools out of the five countries surveyed, with 84% of students having experienced violence, while Pakistan had the lowest at 43%. “Even the bottom end of the scale — 43% in Pakistan — is unacceptable,” said Mark Pierce, Plan’s Asia regional director.

The prevalence of the problem in the Southeast Asian nation is illustrated by shocking videos uploaded to YouTube, like the one below that shows a girl at a primary school in West Sumatra’s Bukittinggi being kicked and beaten by her classmates.

Another video, uploaded as recently as last month, shows another girl being held in a choke hold by a male peer while another jumps in and out of the frame to punch her and make suggestive motions — culminating in an all-out brawl.

Several other causes and factors contributing to school violence — perpetrated by both peers and authority figures — exist even within the limited scope of the study, such as students’ lack of trust in existing reporting mechanisms, traditional and cultural norms, and a low rate of intervention by observers.

With reporting by Yenni Kwok

TIME Vietnam

Thousands of Rescued Cats May Have Just Been Buried Alive in Vietnam

Though illegal, cat-meat is in high demand in Vietnam as a delicacy

Thousands of cats that were seized by Vietnamese authorities appear to have been buried, and many seem to have been alive at the time.

“Three tons” of felines were found cramped together in bamboo crates in a truck after being smuggled into Vietnam from China to supply the country’s illegal cat-meat trade, Agence France-Presse reports.

They were impounded in the capital Hanoi, but authorities didn’t know what to do with the animals.

“Several of them had died, there was a terrible smell that could affect the environment and carried risks of future diseases,” said a police officer from Dong Da district. “Therefore, we culled them by burying them.”

Animal-protection groups had pleaded with the authorities to spare the cats, and had even started an online petition urging the Vietnamese authorities to “change their animal-handling policies.”

They believe many of the cats had still been alive when they were buried.

Though the consumption of cat meat, known locally as little tiger, is illegal in the Southeast Asian country, it is still considered a delicacy and is served in many restaurants.

[AFP]

TIME Cambodia

Witness Describes Khmer Rouge’s Gruesome Torture During Genocide Trial

CAMBODIA-UN-TRIAL-GENOCIDE
Tang Chhin Sothy—AFP/Getty Images Cambodian and international journalists watch a live video feed showing former Khmer Rouge head of state Khieu Samphan during a hearing for his trial at the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia in Phnom Penh on Jan. 8, 2015

Former detainee recounts savage torture episodes committed by communist cadres

Khmer Rouge security officials used acid and pliers to torture inmates and disemboweled a detainee and consumed her organs, according to witness testimony given in Phnom Penh this week.

On Monday, former prisoner Keo Chandara told the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) — a tribunal created to investigate the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge — that guards used pliers and acid to torture female detainees incarcerated at the Kraing Tachan security center.

According to his testimony, prison guards at the facility would use the pliers to lacerate the inmates before pouring acid into the wounds. If the detainees passed out due to the excessive pain, the overseers would then use water to revive them.

“About 10 prisoners who were ordered to sit and watch the torture,” said Keo Chandara, reports the Cambodia Daily.

During one particularly gruesome episode, Keo Chandara said the guards hanged one prisoner by a hook through her mouth and then cut out her heart, gall bladder and liver after she was unable to answer questions during an interrogation session.

“One of them asked that the liver be fried and the gall bladder kept for him,” Keo Chandara told the court, according to the broadcaster Voice of America.

The Chinese-backed cadres took the extremities of central planning to new heights during their reign over the kingdom from 1975 to 1979. Cities were evacuated, intellectuals and members of the middle class were executed and currency abolished as the communists launched their ill-fated collectivist reforms that led to mass starvation and wanton savagery.

Approximately 1.7 million people — a quarter of the national population — are believed to have died under Khmer Rouge rule.

Vietnamese forces eventually dislodged the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979; however, guerrilla bands loyal to the outfit continued to battle the central government into the late 1990s.

The ECCC is currently investigating genocide charges against two of the Khmer Rouge’s last surviving top cadres, Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, who were sentenced to life in prison for committing crimes against humanity last year.

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 justice

Mark Wahlberg’s Victim Says the Actor Should Get a Pardon

The Vietnamese man a 16-year-old Wahlberg attacked says he wasn’t blinded in the assault

A Vietnamese man who was brutally attacked by a 16-year-old Mark Wahlberg in 1988 says that contrary to some press reports he wasn’t blinded in the assault and he believes the actor should receive a pardon.

“He did hurt me, but my left eye was already gone,” Johnny Trinh told the Daily Mail. “He was not responsible for that. I would like to see him get a pardon. He should not have the crime hanging over him any longer.”

In 1988, Wahlberg attacked and hurled racial slurs at Trinh and another man during an attempted street robbery in Boston.

Trinh, 59, says his left eye was blinded in a grenade attack while he was serving in the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War. After the war Trinh sought refuge in the United States.

Wahlberg, 16 at the time of the assault, served 45 days of a two-year prison sentence. After runaway success as an model, singer and actor, Wahlberg is seeking a pardon for crimes he committed as a juvenile.

[Daily Mail]

Read next: Mark Wahlberg Should Not Be Pardoned

TIME Veterans

Vietnam War Veteran’s Remains Returned to Family After 47 Years

US-VETERANS-DAY
Saul Loeb—AFP/Getty Images The shadow of a member of the US Army appears on the wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC on Nov. 10, 2014.

Staff Sgt. James L. Van Bendegom had been missing since his patrol was overrun in 1967

The remains of a fallen Vietnam War veteran who disappeared near the Cambodian border 47 years ago have finally been returned to his family, according to the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia.

In mid-July 1967, James L. Van Bendegom was captured after his patrol was ambushed and overrun by enemy forces while deep in hostile terrain. The 19-year-old staff sergeant reportedly died of his wounds in captivity.

Almost two decades later, a Vietnamese national in a refugee camp in Thailand provided U.S. authorities with the remains of an American service member; however, officials were unable to establish the identity of the soldier based on the evidence provided.

“Thanks to advances in technology, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) re-examined the remains and determined that there was a possibility for identification,” read a statement released by the U.S. mission in Phnom Penh on Friday. “The remains were then identified as belonging to Staff Sgt. Van Bendegom.”

Bendegom’s remains were returned to his family earlier this month and the solider was finally laid to rest with full military honors on Nov. 11, 2014 in Kenosha, Wis.

To date, there are still 1,639 American service members from the Vietnam War who remain unaccounted for.

TIME conflict

Why Were Activists 45 Years Ago Protesting ‘Against Death?’

March Against Death
AP Images Wearing the name of a serviceman who died in Vietnam, a marcher pauses in front of the White House on Nov. 14, 1969

It had nothing to do with immortality

On the night of Thursday, Nov. 13, 1969, the “March Against Death” began. By the time that weekend was over, Washington, D.C., had seen more protesters than any single event in its history had drawn. Attendance was higher, by tens of thousands, than at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. And despite a name that, 45 years later, may seem overblown or vague, the march was actually about something very specific.

The deaths they were protesting were those of soldiers and civilians in Vietnam.

As TIME reported in the Nov. 21, 1969, issue:

Disciplined in organization, friendly in mood, [the march] started at Arlington National Cemetery, went past the front of the White House and on to the west side of the Capitol. Walking single file and grouped by states, the protesters carried devotional candles and 24-in. by 8-in. cardboard signs, each bearing the name of a man killed in action or a Vietnamese village destroyed by the war. The candles flickering in the wind, the funereal rolling of drums, the hush over most of the line of march—but above all, the endless recitation of names of dead servicemen and gutted villages as each marcher passed the White House —were impressive drama: “Jay Dee Richter” . . . “Milford Togazzini” . . . “Vinh Linh, North Viet Nam” . . . “Joseph Y. Ramirez.” At the Capitol, each sign was solemnly deposited in one of several coffins, later conveyed back up Pennsylvania Avenue in the Saturday march.

Mrs. Judy Droz, 23, of Columbia, Mo., was chosen to walk first in the March Against Death. Her husband, a Navy officer, died in Viet Nam last spring. “I have come to Washington to cry out for liberty, for freedom, for peace,” she said. The New Mobe [New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Viet Nam] organizers had recruited others who had lost loved ones in the war, but some gold-star families wanted none of it. In Philadelphia and Dallas, groups of mothers and widows of G.I.s killed in combat obtained court orders to bar use of the men’s names by the protesters.

Another march took place that Saturday, capped by speeches and musical performances watched by at least 250,000 people. A connected event in San Francisco also drew record crowds for that city.

Read the full story here, in TIME’s archives: Parades for Peace and Patriotism

TIME Opinion

How to Understand Republican Strategy: Look to the Vietnam War

Early Voting
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images People line up for early voting outside of the Pulaski County Regional Building on Nov. 3, 2014, in Little Rock, Ark.

A historian describes why he sees a similarity between American politics today and those of North Vietnam

War, wrote Carl von Clausewitz, is politics by other means—but for at least 20 years Republicans and Democrats have been fighting a civil war by political means. The Republicans seem likely to win a big victory Tuesday by taking over the Senate. Should they succeed, it will be a new victory for a long-term strategy with a very surprising analog: the strategy that allowed the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese to win the Vietnam War.

In one of his many books on the Vietnam War, the late historian Douglas Pike described the overarching Communist strategy, called dau tranh, or struggle. Although the United States spent many years, billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives fighting the military aspects of dau tranh, it runs out that the political aspects were always more important. The Viet Cong always had more political workers than soldiers. They conducted motivational propaganda among their own troops, but also infiltrated and did whatever they could to make it impossible for the South Vietnamese government to function effectively. That is why, for example, they tolerated inept South Vietnamese officials who would discredit the Saigon government, but were likely to assassinate effective ones. If they could reduce South Vietnamese society to chaos, they reasoned, the well-organized Communist party could easily take over, and in 1975 the South Vietnamese army and government completely collapsed in the face of the last North Vietnamese offensive. Some years ago, I realized that that the Republican Party has been practicing its own kind of dau tranh for more than twenty years. Recently, the strategy has intensified. It has significantly weakened government at all levels and has a good chance of eliminating the remaining vestiges of the New Deal and the Progressive Era.

Although it is very unlikely that Newt Gingrich had heard of dau tranh when he began his all-out assault on the Democrats in the House of Representatives in the 1980s, he employed a parallel strategy from the beginning. He created a new vocabulary to make his pro-government opponents look corrupt and weak. Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge has gotten nearly every Republican in Congress to commit never to increase taxes, hurting the government’s ability to do its work. The Federalist Society has developed a network of lawyers and judges who side against government, and conservative media serve as an echo chamber for those ideas. Since I first noticed these similarities between this strategy and dau tranh, the Republican struggle has continued on many fronts. Oddly, while this attack on government has done a great deal to contribute to our current economic mess, the mess also makes dau tranh more effective, because it undermines confidence in the government. All these tactics spread the idea that government is a powerful conspiracy against the interests of the American people.

Yet despite their rhetoric, while George W. Bush was in power, most Republicans had no choice but to collaborate in the funding and operation of the federal government. Their views changed when a liberal Democrat, Barack Obama, took office in 2009, and Congressional Republicans decided to do everything they could to make his administration fail. In that same year the Tea Party opened its own campaign against government, Democrats and moderate Republicans. The Republican struggle is financed by several networks of donors—including the Koch brothers, who have financed the most extreme candidates. Helped by the recession that Obama inherited, the Republicans gained control of the state legislatures of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2010, and ruthlessly gerrymandered the Congressional districts in those states to assure themselves of majorities for some time to come.

Since winning the House of Representatives and taking away the Democrats’ 60-vote majority in the Senate in 2010, Republicans have made it impossible for large parts of the federal government to function. The Surgeon General should in theory be the point person for dealing with the Ebola outbreak, but we have not had one for many months, because the NRA opposes President Obama’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, and the Republicans have refused to allow a vote on his confirmation. The same tactic brought the National Labor Relations Board to a halt for some months, after the expiration of board members’ terms had left the board short of a quorum necessary to do business. Republicans have used the Congressional investigatory power to create scandals, even though many of them, such as the IRS flap, never lived up to the headlines they generated. Six years of endless propaganda against the Affordable Health Care Act, combined with the problems in its initial roll-out, have made Democrats too frightened to campaign as supporters of it, even in states where it has given many people health insurance for the first time. And since 2011, the Republicans, while forcing further reductions in the discretionary budget of the federal government, have made it impossible for President Obama to do anything significant to speed the economic recovery, much less to strengthen his own constituency with immigration reform.

The genius of the Republican strategy is that it validates itself. Crippling government tends to prove that government does not work, and allows Republicans to argue that the nation would do better with even less government. Democratic administrations on the other hand depend on the idea that government can help the people. Starving and immobilizing the government makes it look ineffective, which seems to validate Republican propaganda. Franklin Roosevelt created the modern Democratic Party by convincing every section of the country, from the agricultural south and the resource-rich west to the urban areas of the northeast and Midwest, that the government could help them. Now that belief has nearly disappeared in most of the Red states, and those states may well give the Republicans control of the Senate.

Some months ago Mitch McConnell told a symposium hosted by the Koch brothers that if the Republicans win the Senate, a Republican Congress will use the budget process to defund every part of the federal government that they do not like—a recipe for even more disorder. That is bound to create an even worse conflict between Congress and the President, and could easily lead to a further government shutdown. By 2016, the country may be so sick of this that it will elect a Republican President just to bring gridlock to an end. That would be the final triumph of several decades of dau tranh. But while the Vietnamese Communists practiced it to put a totalitarian party in power, the Republicans are doing so to reduce the power of government to the minimum necessary for society to function—or perhaps, to below that minimum. Their struggle against governmental authority is not simply a means, but also an end in itself.

David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College, and the Naval War College. He is the author of seven books, including, most recently, No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War. He lives in Watertown, Mass.

TIME Vietnam

Risking China’s Ire, India Signs Defense and Oil Deals With Vietnam

Vietnam's PM Dung waves next to his Indian counterpart Modi at the forecourt of India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi
Adnan Abidi—Reuters Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung waves next to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during Dung's ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's presidential palace in New Delhi on Oct. 28, 2014

The agreements were signed during a visit to India by the Vietnamese Prime Minister

On Tuesday, India pledged to supply naval vessels to Vietnam and also secured oil exploration rights from Hanoi in parts of the contentious South China Sea, in moves that promise to ruffle a few feathers in Beijing.

The announcement came during Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s two-day visit to India, during which his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi pledged to “quickly operationalize” the $100 million line of credit established during Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Hanoi in September.

Along with an expedited sale of four offshore patrol ships, India will also take up enhanced training programs for the Vietnamese military, according to the Economic Times.

The agreements come at a time when the Vietnam, along with several other Southeast Asian nations, is locked in territorial disputes with Beijing over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“Everybody’s worried about what China’s going to do next,” says A.B. Mahapatra, director of New Delhi–based think tank the Centre for Asian and Strategic Studies–India. “That is a common concern between [India and Vietnam] now, because all through history they never thought that they should expand their trade relationship or their defense relationship.”

Hong Lei, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, reasserted Beijing’s claim to the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea, but said it would not object to any joint exploration by India and Vietnam in undisputed waters.

“But if such cooperation harms China’s sovereignty and interests, we will resolutely oppose it,” he said.

Both Vietnam and India are growing closer to China economically, and a recent visit to New Delhi by Chinese President Xi Jinping yielded agreements worth billions of dollars.

But Mahapatra points out that neither Indian nor Vietnamese economic dependence on China precludes territorial conflict, and assumptions that Beijing would not destabilize a region in which it has economic interests have proved wrong time and again.

“[India and Vietnam] realize that if they don’t encounter China now, they will lose [the territory] forever,” he says.

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