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Hanoi John: Kerry and the Antiwar Movement's Communist Connections

This is Part 3 of a 5-part series analyzing John Kerry's Communist connections titled "John Kerry's Fellow Travellers" originally posted at by "Fedora".

Author's note: The term "fellow traveller" as used in this article series refers to someone who is not a member of the Communist Party (CP) but regularly engages in actions which advance the Party's program. Some apparent fellow travellers may actually be "concealed party members": members of the CP who conceal their membership. Which of these classifications is applicable to the Kerrys is a question this series leaves unresolved. This series does not argue for any direct evidence of Richard or John Kerry or other members of the Kerry family belonging to the CP. What this series does argue for is a consistent pattern of the Kerry family working with Communists and Communist fellow travellers in a way that advances the Communist program.


Part 1 of this series, "John Kerry's Red Roots", traced the roots of John Kerry's foreign policy views to the influence of a faction of the State Department led by Dean Acheson, protégé of the Communist fellow traveller Felix Frankfurter. Part 2, "Forging a Paper Hero", exposed how Kerry managed to conceal his left-wing background by cloaking himself in the guise of a war hero. This article picks up the story with Kerry's abuse of his stolen valor, when he came home from Vietnam and wore an American uniform while speaking on behalf of groups representing America's Communist enemies. Part 4 is Subversion in the Senate: Kerry's Communist Constituency, and Part 5 is John Kerry vs. the War on Terror: Candidate Kerry's Subversive Campaign.

John Kerry's Antiwar Career Summarized

Summary of John Kerry's Antiwar Allies

Individual/Group Relation to Communist movement Relation to Kerry
1969-1970+ Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC): Organized mass antiwar demonstrations Formed by associates of Communist front group American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Communist-infiltrated group SANE;

interlocked with the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (New Mobe), an antiwar mobilization group formed following instructions from Hanoi by the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), a Trotskyite group infiltrated by the Soviets and friendly to Cuba

Peggy Kerry worked for VMC in 1969 and recruited John to fly New York VMC leader Adam Walinsky to VMC demonstrations in October 1969, while John was still on active duty;

John then asked VMC for support in his 1970 Congressional campaign and worked for them afterwords;

subsequently was supported by VMC founder Jerome Grossman throughout political career into Senate terms

1970+ Father Robert Drinan: Left-wing priest and lawyer Associate of antiwar activist Daniel Berrigan; officer in Communist front group National Lawyers Guild (NLG);

travelled to Vietnam on behalf of Communist front group Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR);

politically endorsed by Communist lawyer Ramsey Clark

1970 Congressional campaign chaired by Kerry;

as Congressman sought to pass "Kerry Amendment" lowering age requirements to allow Kerry to run for Senator in 1972;

supported Vietnam Veterans Against the War while Kerry was a VVAW member;

advised Kerry's 2004 Presidential campaign

1970-1973+ Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW): antiwar veterans' group Inspired by Veterans for Peace (VFP), offshoot of front group set up by the Communist Party (CP) to protest the Korean War;

initially run out of offices of Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee (FAVPPC), which networked with numerous Communist front groups;

formed alliances with New Mobe and VMC;

leadership interlocked with Communist front group People's Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ);

politically allied with politicians tied to Communist lobbying groups such as George Ball, Allard Lowenstein, Eugene McCarthy, Robert and Ted Kennedy, Bella Abzug, George McGovern, Mark Hatfield, John Conyers, Ron Dellums, Charles Rangel, Michael Harrington, Paul McCloskey, etc.

financed by left-wing sources such as Jane Fonda, United Auto Workers (UAW), Edgar Bronfman, Ted Kennedy, etc.

legally represented by Communist lawyers such as Peter Weiss, Ramsey Clark, William Kunstler, Mark Lane, etc.

jointly sponsored events with various Communist-linked individuals and groups including Black Panther Party (BPP), Citizens' Commission of Inquiry into War Crimes in Indochina (CCI), Jane Fonda, Yippies, National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC), Venceremos Brigade (VB), etc.;

met domestically and abroad with representatives of North Vietnam, Soviet Union, Cuba, European Communist groups, and Arab terrorist group Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)

Introduced to VVAW by sister Peggy; attracted VVAW attention through work for VMC and Drinan and joined group around May 1970;

served on VVAW National Executive Committee 1970-1971;

afterwords remained VVAW leader and spokesman into at least 1973;

continued to associate with former VVAW members throughout career to present day

Contrary to his current posture as someone who went to Vietnam out of "a sense of duty and responsibility" and "never considered not serving",1 John Kerry was actually already opposed to the Vietnam War before going to Vietnam, and he tried to avoid the draft. At Yale in 1965 and 1966 he opposed the war in at least two speeches.2 He claimed in a 1970 interview that he tried unsuccessfully to persuade the draft board to let him study abroad in France before he decided to enlist in the US Naval Reserve.3 While undergoing his Naval Reserve training, Kerry wrote letters in 1968 to his friends Michael Dalby and David Thorne expressing his opposition to the war, and while he was in Vietnam, Kerry and his fellow skipper Donald Droz—whose wife Judy was already active in the antiwar movement in 1968—planned to protest the war upon their return, according to Judy's account of Donald's letters home.4

After being transferred out of combat duty, Kerry was restationed in New York in early 1969. By late 1969 his older sister Peggy was already involved in the antiwar movement, working for the Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC). That October, she recruited John as a pilot to fly Adam Walinsky, a key leader of the New York office of the VMC, to VMC-organized antiwar demonstrations.5 Kerry, who was still on active duty in the US Naval Reserve,6 later boasted that he had been "smart enough not to put down ‘Moratorium' on the Navy signout sheet for that Tuesday and Wednesday".7

On November 21, 1969, Kerry requested an early release from active duty so he could run for Congress on an antiwar platform. In January 1970 he was transferred to inactive duty, and his younger brother Cameron tried to recruit support for his campaign from VMC founder Jerome Grossman. Grossman, who had links to the Democratic National Committee, was a leader of a Massachusetts antiwar activist group called Massachusetts Political Action for Peace (Mass PAX, later renamed Citizens for Participation in Political Action, CPPAX), which had previously supported antiwar Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and had created the VMC in 1969. Mass PAX's coalition was now seeking an antiwar candidate to unseat prowar Congressman Philip Philbin. However by the time Cameron got in touch with Grossman, Grossman had already decided to support another, better-known antiwar candidate, Father Robert Drinan. In February 1970 Mass PAX's caucus voted to support Drinan over Kerry, and at the urging of Grossman, who was Drinan's campaign manager, Kerry quit his own campaign to become chairman of Drinan's campaign.8 At the same time he was chairing Drinan's campaign, Kerry also did work for the VMC. 9

While Grossman and Kerry were supporting the VMC and Drinan, they began supporting a veterans' antiwar group, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Kerry's speaking activity for Drinan and the VMC brought him to the attention of leaders of the VVAW's New York headquarters, and he joined the VVAW shortly after his marriage on May 23, 1970. Grossman introduced him to veterans from an antiwar group called Legal In-Service Project (LISP) which was operating out of Mass PAX's office, and these veterans helped Kerry set up a Massachusetts branch of VVAW based in Mass PAX's office.10 Meanwhile for their honeymoon Kerry and his wife travelled to Paris, and during their stay there they met leaders of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), a delegation representing the North Vietnamese government's proposed ruling body for South Vietnam.11

Kerry emerged as the VVAW's star spokesman during a September 1970 speech at Valley Forge for the VVAW's Operation RAW. After Operation RAW he was appointed to the VVAW National Executive Committee by VVAW leader Al Hubbard because of his speaking ability and his contacts with the Democratic National Committee and Ted Kennedy. His prominence in the organization grew through his participation in its Dewey Canyon III rally in Washington in April 1971. Kerry remained prominent in the VVAW until at least July 1971, after which there are conflicting accounts, largely perpetrated by Gerald Nicosia, a writer friendly to Kerry. Nicosia initially wrote in a 2001 book that Kerry developed differences with Hubbard which led him to resign from the VVAW National Executive Committee at a VVAW meeting in St. Louis in July 1971.12 However, Kerry's biographer Douglas Brinkley reported in a 2004 book that Kerry resigned from the VVAW on November 10, 1971.13 After other researchers publicized evidence that Kerry had attended a VVAW meeting in Kansas City in November 1971 during which VVAW leaders proposed kidnapping and assassinating pro-war politicians,14, Nicosia provided the media with FBI documents confirming Kerry had attended this meeting.15 The actual FBI reports on the Kansas City meeting record that on November 13 "JOHN KERRY, a VVAW national leader from Massachusetts, arrived and spoke to the committee. He resigned from the National Executive Committee of VVAW for ‘personal reasons' but added he would still be active in VVAW and available to speak for the organization" and would be holding his office "until new members are elected in January 1972".16 Prior to Nicosia's release of the FBI documents, the Kerry campaign had issued statements that "Kerry was not at the Kansas City meeting" and had resigned from the VVAW "sometime in the summer of 1971".17 After Nicosia's release of the documents, the Kerry campaign issued statements that "Senator Kerry does not remember attending the Kansas City meeting." VVAW members who attended the meeting have issued conflicting statements about whether or not they remember seeing Kerry there.18 Subsequent research has uncovered articles reporting Kerry speaking at VVAW events and on behalf of the VVAW as late as at least April 1972 and representing himself as a VVAW member to the press as late as October 1972,19 and a newspaper photo dated January 24, 1973 is accompanied by a caption describing Kerry as "head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War".20 Kerry would remain associated with former VVAW members such as Chris Gregory into his Senate career,21 and in 1979 he joined former VVAW associate Bobby Muller in cofounding the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), which lists him as a lifetime member.22

Kerry's Introduction to the Antiwar Movement: The Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC)

As the above summary indicates, Kerry's introduction to the antiwar movement came through the Vietnam Moratorium Committee (VMC). In October 1969 Kerry's sister Peggy recruited him as a pilot to fly Adam Walinsky, a key leader of the New York office of the VMC, to VMC-organized antiwar demonstrations.23 Peggy was at that time already working for the VMC.24 In January 1970 Cameron Kerry sought VMC support for John's Congressional campaign,25 and after John joined Drinan's campaign in February 1970 he did additional work for the VMC.26

The Vietnam Moratorium Committee was conceived by Jerome Grossman and grew out of Grossman's work for Massachusetts Political Action for Peace (Mass PAX), which was in turn an outgrowth of the 1962 Massachusetts Senatorial campaign of antinuclear candidate H. Stuart Hughes. Hughes, then teaching history at Harvard, was a lifelong Communist sympathizer who had opposed the Cold War from the beginning and was described in FBI files as having "strong convictions towards communism".27 In 1959 he had been recruited to the antinuclear group SANE (National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy) by his friend David Riesman.28 Riesman was a longtime fellow traveller who had begun his professional career under the tutelage of Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis, two of the foremost front men for the US Communist movement.29 SANE likewise had numerous Communist associations, prompting investigations by the FBI and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in the 1960s.30 SANE and allied antiwar groups supported Hughes when he decided to run for Senator on an antinuclear platform in 1962, and Hughes went on to become SANE's cochairman in 1963 and its chairman in 1967. In those capacities he organized opposition to the Vietnam War, prompting the FBI to place him under surveillance when it received information that he was going to visit Moscow on a trip to Paris in 1966.31

Meanwhile Hughes' SANE activity brought him into contact with Grossman. Grossman had been recruited to the antinuclear movement in the 1950s through the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC),32 an old Communist front group,33 and had subsequently become a SANE activist.34 Through SANE's support of Hughes in 1962, Grossman became Hughes' campaign manager.35 After the campaign, Hughes' organizers transformed his campaign into an ongoing antiwar organization, Massachusetts Political Action for Peace.36 Grossman continued to work with Mass PAX as it opposed the Vietnam War after 1964 and as it supported Eugene McCarthy's Presidential campaign in 1968.37

At an April 1969 Mass PAX meeting, Grossman proposed the idea of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee: a committee to coordinate a nation-wide, grassroots-generated series of antiwar demonstrations.38 To help him organize these demonstrations, Grossman recruited the help of 1968 antiwar Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy and former McCarthy campaign organizers Sam Brown, David Hawk, David Mixner, and Marge Sklencar.39

Through Brown, the Moratorium's national director and principal organizer,40 the VMC joined forces with the New Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam, or "New Mobe",41 a national coordinating group for antiwar protests. The New Mobe was so called because it was an outgrowth of an earlier national coordinating group called the Student Mobilization Committee (SMC), or "Mobe". The Mobe was in turn an outgrowth of the National Student Strike for Peace Conference. The National Student Strike for Peace Conference had originally been organized in 1966 by the Communist Party (CP) and the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).42

The SWP was a Trotskyite group which had been infiltrated by the Soviet Union since the 1930s and had more recently developed connections with Castro's regime in Cuba through groups such as the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. It was accordingly designated as subversive by the Attorney General and became a high priority for FBI surveillance from 1961 on.43

The SWP element in the Mobe had become dominant by 1968, and the FBI regarded the Mobe as controlled by the SWP. A 1967 Congressional report found that "Communists are playing dominant roles in. . .the Student Mobilization Committee. . ."44

The Mobe lost momentum after the 1968 Presidential campaign and was revived by the SWP in July 1969 as the New Mobe. From its inception the New Mobe coordinated its actions with the Soviet Union and North Vietnam through the KGB-linked World Peace Council (WPC) in Stockholm. A 1970 Congressional report found that the New Mobe was under "communist domination".45

From its beginning, the New Mobe worked in close coordination with the VMC. The VMC was represented on the New Mobe's steering committee from the New Mobe's first meeting; the New Mobe shared its headquarters with the VMC at 1029 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington, DC; and Sam Brown organized for the New Mobe while he directed the VMC.46

New York VMC activity was coordinated by the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee (FAVPPC, also known by various similar names). The FAVPPC had been organized by Norma Becker, a member of a Communist front group called the War Resisters League (WRL), and it operated out of the same 5 Beekman Street address as numerous inter-related Communist front groups and fellow-travelling groups, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), and the Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF). It was described in a 1970 Congressional report as "dominated by communists".47

The most prominent leader of the New York VMC was Adam Walinsky, former legal and speechwriting assistant to Robert Kennedy.48 John Kerry's sister Peggy was also working for the New York VMC in 1969, and she recruited John to fly Walinsky around to VMC-organized demonstrations that October,49 while John was still on active duty.50 After John was transferred to inactive duty in January 1970 his brother Cameron contacted VMC founder Jerome Grossman to seek VMC support for John's Congressional campaign. Failing to win VMC support in a February 1970 caucus, John accepted Grossman's request to drop out of the campaign and chair the campaign of the VMC's favored Congressional candidate, Father Robert Drinan. While chairing Drinan's campaign, he also worked for the VMC and came to know Sam Brown, as he later recalled on the Senate floor in 1994 while defending Brown's nomination as US ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Grossman in return would continue to support Kerry throughout his political career, into his 2004 Presidential campaign.51

Transition from the VMC to the VVAW: Robert Drinan

In February 1970 Kerry began chairing Drinan's campaign, which culminated in Drinan being elected to Congress that November.52 Kerry's relationship with Drinan continued after the campaign. Kerry spoke favorably of Drinan during his 1971 Senate testimony, saying "certain individuals are in Congress today, particularly in the House, who several years ago could never have been. I would cite Representative Dellums and the Congresswoman Abzug and Congressman Drinan and people like this. I think this is a terribly encouraging sign. . ."53 Drinan in return used his Congressional position to help Kerry and the VVAW. He tried to change the law in order to let the then-28-year-old Kerry run in the 1972 Senatorial election by co-proposing a Constitutional amendment to lower the minimum age for Senator from 30 to 27, a proposal which came to be referred to as the "Kerry Amendment".54 Drinan also supported the VVAW by calling for a Congressional follow-up to the Winter Soldier Investigation's allegations of war crimes by US troops, and by drafting a bill authorizing government mental health-care support for Vietnam veterans diagnosed with "Post-Vietnam Syndrome" (now known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), a diagnosis invented by VVAW ally Robert Jay Lifton.55 After Kerry called for Nixon's impeachment in February 197256—six months prior to the Watergate break-ins—Drinan became the first member of Congress to introduce a resolution of impeachment against Nixon on July 31, 1973.57 In 2004 Drinan has been an advisor to Kerry's Presidential campaign.58

Father Drinan's background was a maze of Communist connections. While studying for the priesthood in the 1940s he had been a classmate of Daniel Berrigan,59 a left-wing priest who later became active in the antiwar movement.60 After earning degrees in law and becoming a lawyer, Drinan joined the faculty of Boston College Law School and eventually was promoted to Dean. As a lawyer he supported left-wing social causes and became in 1968 national vice-president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG),61 identified in a 1950 Congressional investigation as the "legal bulwark of the Communist Party" and linked in the late 1960s and early 1970s to Communist-connected terrorist groups like the Weather Underground Organization (WUO, also known as the Weathermen).62 In 1969 Drinan travelled to Vietnam on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR),63 a Communist front group64 which his old classmate Daniel Berrigan vice-chaired.65 Drinan spoke at a New Mobe event in March 1970,66 a few months before a Congressional report found that the New Mobe was under "communist domination".67 Drinan's Congressional campaign received an endorsement from former Attorney General Ramsey Clark,68 who during this period also defended Daniel Berrigan's brother Philip against charges of conspiring to kidnap public officials, represented the VVAW and the Communist-infiltrated New Mobe offshoot National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC) in a legal dispute with the Supreme Court, assisted the Communist front group Committee for Public Justice (CPJ) in a campaign to discredit the FBI, led a Black Panther inquiry into the Chicago Police Department, and travelled to North Vietnam to denounce US bombing.69 Drinan was under FBI surveillance while Kerry was working for his campaign.70

Kerry in the Spotlight: The VVAW

Kerry's relationship with the VVAW emerged out of his relationship to Grossman, the Drinan campaign, and the VMC. Kerry's speaking activity for Drinan and the VMC brought him to the attention of leaders of the VVAW's New York headquarters. He subsequently joined the VVAW shortly after his marriage on May 23, 197071 and helped the group set up a Massachusetts branch.72 The VVAW remained relatively unknown and Kerry maintained a low profile in the organization until a Labor Day 1970 rally at Valley Forge called "Operation RAW" (Rapid American Withdrawal) showcased his public speaking skills.73 After this the VVAW tried to attract media attention by going to Detroit in January 1971 to stage a "Winter Soldier Investigation" (WSI) into alleged war crimes by US soldiers.74 When this failed to generate publicity, VVAW co-leader Al Hubbard appointed Kerry to the group's National Executive Committee so that Kerry could use his contacts with the Democratic National Committee and Ted Kennedy to help organize a major rally in Washington, DC.75 During the rally, held in April 1971 and called "Dewey Canyon III" after the codename of a US military operation, Kerry testified to the Senate about alleged war crimes and attracted national media attention to the VVAW cause.76 Following this Kerry became the VVAW's most prominent national spokesman. He resigned from the VVAW's National Executive Committee citing "personal reasons" in November 1971,77 shortly before he began to campaign for the 1972 Congressional elections, but he continued to identify himself as the VVAW's national leader and to speak on behalf of the organization throughout 1972 and into at least 1973.78 During this period the VVAW became increasingly militant and engaged in violent activity such as running guns to black militant groups in Cairo, Illinois starting in August 1971; plotting the assassination of pro-war politicians in November 1971; taking over the Lincoln Memorial and Statue of Liberty and other national symbols in December 1971; dumping blood on United States ambassador to the United Nations George H.W. Bush in May 1972; and physically attacking delegates and police at the Republican National Convention in Miami in August 1972.79

The VVAW before Kerry: From the FAVPPC to the Black Panthers

The VVAW had been founded in New York in 1967 by Vietnam veteran Jan Barry Crumb, who called himself Jan Barry. Barry's involvement in the antiwar movement began in April 1967 when he attended the April 7 Peace Parade. The parade had been organized by the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee (FAVPPC). The FAVPPC was led by Norma Becker, a member of a Communist front group called the War Resisters League (WRL), and it operated out of the same 5 Beekman Street address as numerous inter-related Communist front groups and fellow-travelling groups, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), the Committee for Nonviolent Action (CNVA), and the Catholic Peace Fellowship (CPF). It was described in a 1970 Congressional report as "dominated by communists".80 Participating in the FAVPPC's rally were some members of Veterans for Peace (VFP), an outgrowth of American Veterans for Peace (AVP), an antiwar group which the Communist Party had originally formed in 1951 to protest the Korean War.81 Barry joined Vietnam veterans among the VFP marchers and inquired about a banner some of them were carrying which read "Vietnam Veterans Against the War". When Barry learned the phrase was just a slogan and there was no formal group by that name, he decided to form one. After talking with the older VFP members and studying their tactics, he recruited five Vietnam veterans from a Memorial Day VFP rally, and on June 1, 1967 the six of them held the first VVAW meeting in his apartment.82

On June 4, 1967, VVAW treasurer Francis Rocks opened up a PO Box for the VVAW, telling the post office the VVAW's address was 5 Beekman Street, the same address as the FAVPPC. The New York VVAW maintained a close relationship with the FAVPPC, holding early meetings in another building used by the FAVPPC at 156 Fifth Avenue and later moving into the same building. On September 9, 1967, the Communist magazine The Worker covered the VVAW in an article giving the organization's address as 17 East 17th Street and reporting that the organization now had about 20 members, including half a dozen graduates of Columbia University. As the VVAW grew it attracted members with links to other antiwar groups, notably Carl Rogers, a member of an antiwar group called Negotiation Now! which shared space with the FAVPPC at 156 Fifth Avenue. Leaving Negotiation Now! to help run the VVAW, Rogers helped the VVAW network with such contacts as the Mobe, Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV, later shortened to CALC), antiwar diplomat George Ball, antiwar Congressman Allard Lowenstein, antiwar Senators Ernest Gruening and J. William Fulbright, and the 1968 Presidential campaign of antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy. Over the course of the 1968 campaign the VVAW split into a faction supporting McCarthy and a faction supporting Robert Kennedy. Kennedy was assassinated in June, McCarthy dropped out of the campaign in August, and Richard Nixon won the election, leaving the VVAW disillusioned, without a sense of direction, and financially weak.83

During this period from 1967-1968, prompted by the mention of the VVAW in The Worker, the FBI opened a file on the VVAW and investigated whether it was a Communist front or infiltrated by Communists . At this time the Bureau found no evidence of direct Communist Party control of the VVAW, but noted indications of the VVAW fellow travelling with Communists, such as the VVAW's common address with the FAVPCC and the participation of VVAW leaders in events linked to groups such as VFP, the SWP, and the Mobe. A May 16, 1968 document from the FBI's VVAW file mentions TASS, the official Soviet news agency. The declassified version of the document is so heavily blacked out that the full meaning of the reference is unclear, but in context it appears to relate to an ad the VVAW ran in The New York Times on November 19, 1967. Later, after the FBI had opened an active investigation of the VVAW in 1971, a New York FBI office report would note that in September 1968 the VVAW had participated in a protest organized by the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC), a Communist front group linked to the National Lawyers Guild.84

Regrouping after the 1968 election, the VVAW leadership temporarily left management of the organization in the charge of Jim Boggio, leader of the VVAW's Los Angeles chapter, from fall 1968 to fall 1969. During this period the FBI noted that Boggio attended meetings of the Socialist Workers Party and that his VVAW branch was successfully infiltrated by the SWP's youth branch, the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA).85

Meanwhile VVAW leaders Barry and Rogers and their friend Steve Wilcox turned their attention towards forming a new organization called Serviceman's Link to the Peace Movement, or LINK. LINK's purpose was to connect the civilian antiwar movement with the antiwar movement among active-duty GI's. It supported GI's facing court-martial and participated in high-profile cases such as the trials of Susan Schnall, the Presidio 27, and Roger Priest.86. Schnall was a Navy nurse court-martialed for demonstrating against the war in uniform and using a plane to drop antiwar leaflets on military installations.87 The Presidio 27 was a group of 27 mutineers who were being defended by Terence Hallinan, son of the prominent Communist lawyer Vincent Hallinan.88. Priest was a Pentagon employee who had initially dodged the draft but then decided to join the Navy anyway to challenge the system. While on active duty he had published an antiwar newspaper which advocated desertion to Canada, insubordination, and the assassination of President Nixon. Priest's paper was funded by the Stern Family Fund, a left-wing charity which was then also funding such groups as the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a KGB-connected think tank, and today helps fund Teresa Heinz-Kerry's Tides Foundation. Priest designated the War Resisters League as the beneficiary of his GI life insurance policy, saying he hoped to start a trend so that every time a GI died, the WRL would become $10,000 richer. LINK joined in the defense of Priest, and after the Navy gave him an early release from his enlistment in mid-1969, Priest joined LINK's staff as a counsel to other antiwar GI's.89

While the VVAW leaders focused their energy on LINK from late 1968 to late 1969, the remnant of the VVAW worked towards the election of antiwar Congressmen like Allard Lowenstein and Paul O'Dwyer90 and participated in Mobe-organized rallies. The Mobe alliance served to rejuvenate the VVAW when the New Mobe was formed in July 1969.91 The meeting which created the New Mobe followed a May 1969 meeting in Stockholm between members of the original Mobe, the Soviet-linked World Peace Council, and a North Vietnamese delegation. Participants in the meeting discussed planning antiwar activities in Washington, DC that fall. Following this meeting the Socialist Workers Party called the July meeting which resulted in the formation of the New Mobe.92 Joining the steering committee of this meeting was Carl Rogers of the VVAW and LINK. Soon after the meeting LINK began sharing a headquarters with the New Mobe and VMC at 1029 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington, DC.93

Through its relationship with the New Mobe and VMC, the VVAW rapidly attracted hundreds of new members following major VMC demonstrations in fall 1969.94 One of the most important new members was Al Hubbard, a black veteran who claimed to have held the rank of captain and have been wounded in Vietnam, though it later turned out that he had only been a staff sergeant, he had never served in Vietnam, and his injuries were old sports injuries.95 Despite his fraudulence, Hubbard was a charismatic speaker and effective organizer. He was appointed as the VVAW's executive secretary, and he developed a plan to expand the VVAW from a one-issue antiwar group into a veterans political organization. As part of this plan, he took the step of incorporating the VVAW as a 501(c)(3) corporation, giving the organization tax-exempt status and eligibility to receive public and private grants. He sent VVAW recruiters to veterans hospitals, college campuses, and high schools. He introduced programs for networking with veterans by providing social benefits and services like regular veterans organizations did. He got the VVAW involved in political lobbying and supporting antiwar politicians. He conceived publicity stunts to attract media attention to the VVAW. Finally, he helped the VVAW network with other antiwar groups, particularly among the militant faction of the civil rights movement led by the Black Panthers.96

The Black Panther Party (BPP), considered by the FBI to be "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country", had been formed by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland in 1966. The Panthers espoused a violence-oriented interpretation of Maoism which related the black civil rights cause to "capitalist oppression" of Third World countries like Vietnam, and on this basis they supported the North Vietnamese cause, volunteering to send fighters to Vietnam to aid the Viet Cong. The Panthers took their name from the logo for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, an Alabama black political group which had been organized by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).97 SNCC was a civil rights group which had been infiltrated by the Communist Party and was allied with the Castro regime through the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) and later the Venceremos Brigade (VB). Leading SNCC organizer Stokely Carmichael had become a Marxist in high school after meeting the son of Eugene Dennis, a prominent Communist Party figure who led CP efforts to infiltrate the civil rights movement in the late 1950s. After joining SNCC in the early 1960s, Carmichael networked with members of the Alabama CP to form the Lowndes County Freedom Organization in 1965. The next year Carmichael was elected chairman of the SNCC and abandoned the group's nonviolent policy. In 1967 he travelled to Cuba, China, North Vietnam, and finally Guinea, where he met with Guinea Communists representing an anti-colonial movement known as Pan-Africanism. From Guinea Carmichael returned to the United States with the intent of forming Black United Front groups throughout the country. In 1968 he left SNCC and became prime minister of the Black Panther Party, forming a temporary BPP/SNCC alliance. This alliance began to break up in summer 1969, fueled by Carmichael's disagreement with the BPP's policy of allying with white activists.98

In a parallel development, by 1969 the white student antiwar movement—centered around Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)—had divided into anti-Panther and pro-Panther factions. The pro-Panther faction was linked to the Weather Underground Organization (WUO, or Weathermen), a Cuban/North Vietnamese-trained terrorist group which sought to advance the antiwar and civil rights causes through violent tactics. Starting in 1969 the Weathermen branch of SDS, SNCC, and other groups began coordinating efforts with a pro-Castro group called the Venceremos Brigade to send groups of Americans to Cuba for intelligence training by Cuban and North Vietnamese agents.99

It was during this period, following the VMC demonstrations of late 1969, that Hubbard joined the VVAW and began building a VVAW-BPP alliance. Hubbard took VVAW members to BPP meetings with him and built a BPP chapter of the VVAW in Harlem. He coordinated a BPP convention with a VVAW demonstration at Valley Forge in fall 1970. Meanwhile Hubbard advocated turning the VVAW into a "weather vets" group, modeled on the Weathermen.100

Enter the Kerrys

It was also following the VMC demonstrations of late 1969 that the VVAW came into contact with the Kerrys. VVAW member Sheldon Ramsdell, through working as a press aide for Eugene McCarthy's campaign, had become involved with the New York Press Service and the Democratic Party in New York.101 The New York branch of the VVAW was at this time sharing office space with the New York branch of the VMC,102 and Ramsdell became acquainted with the leading figure of the New York VMC, Adam Walinsky.103 Peggy Kerry was then working for the New York VMC,104 and she was introduced to Ramsdell by New York Congresswoman Bella Abzug,105 a cofounder of the Communist-infiltrated group Women Strike for Peace (WSP).106 Through Peggy's work with the New York VMC, John met the New York VVAW,107 and the New York VVAW leaders took interest in John after he began speaking for Drinan and the VMC. John joined the VVAW shortly after his marriage on May 23, 1970. He was soon appointed to the VVAW's National Executive Committee by Al Hubbard, and he began to help the VVAW set up a Massachussetts branch in the office of Mass PAX.108 Meanwhile for their honeymoon Kerry and his wife travelled to Paris, and during their stay there they met leaders of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), a delegation representing the North Vietnamese government's proposed ruling body for South Vietnam.109

Operation RAW and The Winter Soldier Investigation

Kerry emerged as the VVAW's leading spokesman through his participation in Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal), a rally held at Valley Forge over Labor Day weekend in September 1970. Operation RAW had been conceived by Al Hubbard to help the VVAW network with active-duty GIs and veterans, to forge links between the VVAW and the civil rights movement, and to promote an investigation into alleged war crimes by US troops in Vietnam—an investigation which came to be called the Winter Solder Investigation (WSI).110

What became WSI was originally the project of a group allied with the VVAW, the Citizens' Commission of Inquiry into War Crimes in Indochina (CCI). The CCI in turn had initiated its inquiry in November 1969 in response to a call from the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation, founded in 1963 by British antiwar leader Bertrand Russell. Russell and his wife Dora had worked with various antiwar groups since World War I, many of which were linked to the Communist movement in Britain and America. During the Cold War Russell came to sympathize with the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Vietnam. In 1963 he began opposing the US in the Vietnam War in direct alliance with the North Vietnamese, using his Foundation to attempt to obtain passports for North Vietnamese and broadcasting propaganda over North Vietnamese radio. In 1966 he called for an International War Crimes Tribunal which would apply the principles of the Nuremberg Trials to investigations of alleged war crimes by US troops in Vietnam. The International War Crimes Tribunal began meeting in Sweden and Denmark in 1967 and became independent of Russell's Foundation.111 It was supported by leading Marxist intellectuals from Europe and America, notably Jean-Paul Sartre, a leading French philosopher who was a periodic member of the French Communist Party and had worked with the Soviet-linked World Peace Council;112 and Noam Chomsky, an American linguist who travelled in 1971 to North Vietnam, where among other things he "negotiated" POW releases as a propaganda ploy to show the "benefits" of cooperating with the North Vietnamese.113 Also participating in the Tribunal were Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and the Black Panthers;114; Carl Oglseby, president of Students for a Democratic Society;115 Peter Weiss, prominent member of the Communist front group the National Lawyers Guild, chairman of the board of the KGB-linked Institute for Policy Studies, and husband of Cora Rubin Weiss (daughter of Communist Party financier Samuel Rubin), who collaborated with the North Vietnamese to extort POW families through the group Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam (COLIFAM);116 and Wilfred Burchett, a KGB agent working for the pro-Vietnamese propaganda outlet Dispatch News Service.117 Dispatch News Service provided Seymour Hersh's story on American war crimes at My Lai to The New York Times in November 1969,118 which stimulated Russell's War Crimes Tribunal to launch an American branch of its investigation.119 The same month Hersh's story broke, Russell's secretary Ralph Schoenman placed an ad to promote the American investigation. He received a response from Tod Ensign of the New Mobe and Black Panthers and his associate Jeremy Rifkin, who had been working with Larry Rottmann of VVAW. Ensign and Rifkin founded the CCI and began forming a coalition with other antiwar leaders and groups, including Chomsky, who had participated in the International War Crimes Tribunal; Richard Fernandez of the Communist-infiltrated group Clergy and Laity Concerned and the Vietnam Moratorium Committee, who travelled to North Vietnam with Chomsky in 1971; Phil Spiro of the Communist Party; participants in an unofficial Congressional war crimes panel which included testimony from psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, a coauthor of Richard Falk, cofounder of the Institute for Policy Studies, who had previously travelled to North Vietnam with Cora Weiss and was then assisting government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in preparing the Pentagon Papers for publication; and antiwar Senator Charles Goodell.120

Rifkin and Ensign had their office across the street from VVAW headquarters, and in January 1970 they invited the VVAW to join the CCI's coalition. At first the VVAW could only afford to share their mailing list with the CCI, but in August 1970 the VVAW decided to launch its own supplementary investigation after picking up funding from Jane Fonda.121

Fonda had become opposed to the Vietnam War while living in France from 1965 to 1969. After returning to the United States in 1969, she called Sam Brown of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee and offered her help to the antiwar movement. She spent much of 1969-1970 touring the country promoting the antiwar movement and various associated left-wing causes, particularly American Indian militant groups and the Black Panthers. She arranged bail money for a Panther arrested with sawed-off shotguns and invited Panther leader Huey Newton to use her penthouse to hold a press conference, prompting the FBI to place her under surveillance. The House Internal Security Committee later reported that from January 8-10, 1971, Fonda participated in a National Coalition Conference which included representatives of the Communist Party and the Black Panthers.122

Fonda came into contact with the VVAW through Mark Lane, a left-wing attorney she met while she was involved with the Black Panthers. Lane had been a 1960 New York State Legislature candidate for the Democratic Reform Movement, a left-wing faction of the Democratic Party led by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and former New York Governor Herbert Lehman. Through his work with the Democratic Reform Movement, Lane became a manager for the New York campaign of 1960 Presidential candidate John Kennedy. Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Lane became a lawyer for Lee Harvey Oswald's mother, formed a Citizens' Committee of Inquiry to investigate the assassination, and wrote articles and books defending Oswald. Lane's work was published with support from Bertrand Russell, and it attracted favorable attention from the KGB, which began covertly arranging funding for Lane's investigation and placing agents in his orbit to encourage his research (whether Lane was aware of this is not confirmed in KGB files, though the KGB suspected he had guessed the source of the funding). KGB agent Genrikh Borovik began maintaining regular contact with Lane, and the KGB arranged funding for Lane to visit a Communist front meeting in Budapest in 1964 to promote his views on the assassination. Lane would serve as a legal advisor to VVAW members.123

In early 1970 Lane met Fonda.124 Meanwhile, Lane was assisting Rifkin and Ensign's CCI in finding war crimes witnesses.125 Lane convinced Fonda to raise funds for the VVAW to launch its own Winter Soldier Investigation to supplement CCI's investigation, and Hubbard persuaded Ensign to join forces with Fonda. Fonda was appointed the VVAW's Honorary National Coordinator.126

The VVAW planned to promote the WSI by announcing it at at the Operation RAW rally to be held in Valley Forge over Labor Day weekend in September 1970. The rally was scheduled to coincide with the nearby Revolutionary People's Constitutional Convention (RPCC),127 which brought the Black Panthers together with a coalition of other ethnic militant groups, Students for a Democratic Society, the Youth International Party, feminist groups, and gay rights groups.128 Al Hubbard arranged for the VVAW's rally to be joined by the Family of Man, a coalition of black civil rights groups marching from Washington to New York via Philadelphia, the site of the RPCC.129

Also attending the RPCC and originally scheduled to join the Operation RAW rally were members of the Youth International Party (YIP, or Yippies).130 The Yippies had been founded in 1967 by Abbie Hoffman, a former SNCC organizer; and Jerry Rubin, a cofounder of the Vietnam Day Committee (VDC), a Communist-allied group that had organized some of the earliest protests against the Vietnam War. The Yippies tried to generate publicity for the antiwar cause by staging flamboyant confrontations, which tended to provoke violence. Hoffman and Rubin were convicted in February 1970 of inciting a riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. After their conviction, Hoffman published a how-to book for anarchists which included directions for bombmaking.131 While Hoffman and Rubin were serving their sentence, the Yippies agreed to participate in Operation RAW by helping VVAW marchers stage mock skirmishes where the veterans would play US troops and the Yippies would play Viet Cong. However upon reconsideration the VVAW leaders became worried that this might lead to violent confrontations with observers and police, so they cancelled the skirmishes and instead asked the Yippies to play Viet Cong prisoners. The Yippies decided that this would be boring and declined to participate.132 But Yippie cofounder Dick Gregory, who was now associated with Jane Fonda's antiwar "F.T.A." troupe, still supported the Winter Soldier Investigation,133 and Yippie tactics inspired later VVAW publicity stunts like Dewey Canyon III.134 TheYippies would join the VVAW at Dewey Canyon III and in rioting at the 1972 Republican National Convention.135

The Operation RAW rally was sponsored by Fonda, Lane, their associate Donald Sutherland, and several antiwar politicians,136 notably Michigan Congressman John Conyers, Jr., a cofounder of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who became a key Congressional link to the Institute for Policy Studies and the World Peace Council;137 and antiwar Senator George McGovern, who was first elected with funding from the IPS-linked Council for a Livable World (CLW), would run as the Democratic Party's Presidential candidate in 1972, and was described in an 18-page FBI memorandum as having pro-Communist sympathies and being involved in various subversive activities.138 Speakers included Hubbard, who expounded Marxist theories of "capitalist imperialism"; Lane and Fonda, who advocated violently overthrowing the capitalist system; Sutherland, who read an antiwar drama written by Dalton Trumbo, a Communist screenwriter who had helped write the scripts for Fonda and Sutherland's F.T.A. and Lane's Executive Action;139 Congressman Allard Lowenstein, who criticized Nixon's Vietnamization strategy;140 civil rights and Mobe leader James Bevel, who called for a march to the UN to deliver a petition charging the US with genocide in Vietnam;141 and Kerry, who defended the VVAW's patriotism and attacked Nixon's.

The same month as Operation RAW, the CCI sent one of its coordinators, Mike Uhl, to Sweden to attend the Stockholm Peace Committee, a similar war crimes investigation staged by a Communist-influenced coalition. Mark Lane also attended, and during the proceedings he behaved like a prosecutor, scolding the veterans for the war crimes they confessed to, and also criticizing Uhl because his testimony was not sensational enough. Afterwords, Lane attacked Uhl at a joint CCI/VVAW meeting, and the CCI members in turn complained to Al Hubbard that they could not work with Lane any longer. Hubbard agreed that Lane was intolerable, but Jane Fonda would not allow Lane to be removed, and Hubbard, fearful of losing her financial support, consented to let Lane stay. Lane, meanwhile, was preparing to publish a book on war crimes that December. But even before publication, critics began complaining that Lane emphasized sensational allegations involving physical and sexual mutiliation, used fictitious names for his interviewees, and did not cross-reference the allegations he recorded against military records. Lane's reputation grew so bad even among his antiwar colleagues that Robert Jay Lifton called Tod Ensign to warn him that the CCI/WSI investigation's credibility would be compromised if Lane was allowed to participate. Communist Party leaders who visited Moscow in 1971 would complain that Lane was motivated by his own self-aggrandizement. Because of the dispute over Lane, CCI and WSI split into two separate investigations, with the CCI investigation becoming known as the National Veterans' Inquiry. Lane and Fonda remained with WSI.142

The CCI and WSI had originally planned to hold their joint investigation in Washington, DC, but because Fonda wanted to hold the investigation somewhere she deemed more representative of working-class America, the WSI investigation ended up being moved to Detroit. The hearings were held at Howard Johnson's Motor Lodge from January 31 through February 2, 1971 and were followed up by a meeting between some of the WSI participants—including Fonda—and a group of North Vietnamese students at a United Auto Workers (UAW) union hall in nearby Windsor, Canada.143 Housing for organizers and witnesses was arranged by a group of antiwar clergy which included Daniel Berrigan.144 Funding came from Michigan political figures and organizations, including Emil Mazey of UAW145 and Michigan Secretary of State Richard Austin;146 from Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace (BEM, later renamed Business Executives Move for New National Priorities), a group of antiwar businessmen founded by Henry Niles of Baltimore Life Insurance Company; 147 from benefit concerts by rock singers David Crosby, Graham Nash, 148 and Phil Ochs; 149 and from Fonda and Lane. Political support came from SDS cofounder and Mobe leader Tom Hayden, who had travelled abroad regularly to meet with North Vietnamese representatives and had been convicted of inciting a riot at the 1968 Demoratic National Convention;150 Ralph Abernathy of the Communist-infiltrated Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC);151 Yippie cofounder Dick Gregory;152 and over a dozen members of Congress, including Operation RAW sponsors Conyers and McGovern, as well as Congressional Black Caucus cofounder Ronald Dellums, who endorsed the Black Panthers and shortly after his election had addressed a meeting of the Soviet front World Peace Council in November 1970.153 Dellums offered the VVAW office space in Washington so they could follow up the WSI with an official Congressional investigation. A number of other members of Congress joined in promoting this idea, including McGovern; Conyers; Congressional Black Caucus cofounder Charles Rangel;154 Students for a Democratic Society cofounder Michael Harrington, who would later found Democratic Socialists of America (DSA);155 Women Strike for Peace cofounder Bella Abzug;156 Robert Drinan;157 and Senator Mark Hatfield, who belonged to an IPS-linked antiwar lobby in Congress called Members of Congress for Peace Through Law (MCPL, later renamed the Arms Control and Foreign Policy Caucus, ACFPC).158 Hatfield read portions of the WSI testimony into the Congressional Record. Publicity for the hearings came from the Communist propaganda station Pacifica Radio;159 the underground press; a few major Midwestern papers; The New York Times, which had previously picked up Seymour Hersh's My Lai story from the IPS-linked propaganda outlet Dispatch News and would soon help Daniel Ellsberg and IPS publicize The Pentagon Papers;160 CBS, then airing the antiwar broadcasts of Walter Cronkite;161 Beacon Press, who signed a contract to publish excerpts of the WSI testimony;162 Nash, who wrote a song called "Oh! Camil (the Winter Soldier)" inspired by the testimony of VVAW member Scott Camil; the Winterfilm Collective, a group of antiwar activists who shot a film of the WSI which was screened in the office of Francis Ford Coppola, an admirer of Fidel Castro;163 and Hugh Hefner—a funder of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee and a former employer of Dick Gregory—who donated an ad for the VVAW in the February issue of Playboy to coincide with the WSI hearings.164

During the hearings IPS associate Robert Jay Lifton spoke as the keynote speaker and served on one of the panels.165 Serving on other panels were Lifton's coauthor Richard Falk of the Institute for Policy Studies, who had travelled to North Vietnam in 1969;166 Falk's IPS associate Peter Weiss, a member of several Communist front groups who had participated in the Bertrand Russell Foundation's International War Crimes Tribunal and had travelled to North Vietnam in November 1970, and whose wife Cora had collaborated with the North Vietnamese to exploit POW families through the group Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam (COLIFAM);167 Howard Zinn, a former SNCC organizer who had travelled to North Vietnam with Daniel Berrigan in 1968 to "negotiate" POW releases;168 and Sidney Peck, a Marxist sociologist who had travelled to North Vietnam and co-led a New Mobe spinoff called the National Coalition Against War, Racism and Repression (NCAWRR, soon to be renamed the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, PCPJ), a CP-linked coalition which had recently negotiated a "People's Peace Treaty" with North Vietnamese students.169

One participant who came to the hearings with Camil and Kerry, Steve Pitkin, would later allege that his testimony had been coached and coerced by Kerry and others.170 During the hearings some of the veterans talked about shooting President Nixon, and had to be discouraged from engaging in this kind of talk by WSI attorney Ken Cloke.171 The testimony included allegations of a secret February 1969 US mission in Laos, reportedly code-named Dewey Canyon I. This revelation allegedly forced the Pentagon to change the code-name of an upcoming Laos operation which was to be called Dewey Canyon II. It also inspired the name of the VVAW's next major operation, Dewey Canyon III.172



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