Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Return of "Hanoi Jane"

Six years ago, when I was involved in the Veterans for Kerry movement, this email started being sent around along with a photoshopped picture of Jane Fonda with John Kerry. It was a repeat of one that first started making the viral circles in 1999, when Jane appeared on ABC's list of "Women of the Century".

Back then the whole Hanoi Jane thing hadn't been very well researched and people were willing to believe anything they heard about her, even to the point of buying into this nonsense. And I guess things haven't changed very much. People are still stupidly angry about this, and six years ago when I did "respond all" reply about the lies in the email, I got death threats -- yes, death threats!

Now the same email is making the viral rounds, but this time Barack Obama's name is thrown into the mix because… well, I don't know why and neither, apparently, does anyone else, except for the belief that he is a traitor equal with or even surpassing Hanoi Jane.

So here's the text of the email – I've had to clean up the punctuation and the spacing to make it more understandable (not that it helped, but I'm not responsible for the content, just the presentation)

Subj: Never Forgive a Traitor
*Never Forgive A Traitor* For those of you too young to remember *_Hanoi Jane_ *is a bad person and did some terrible things during the Vietnam war. Things that can not be forgiven!!!!
* and now OBAMA wants to honor her......!!!!
In Memory of LT. C.Thomsen Wieland who spent 100 days at the Hanoi Hilton*
_ She really is a traitor_.
This is for all the kids born in the 70's and after who do not remember, and didn't have to bear the burden that our fathers, mothers and older brothers and sisters had to bear..
Jane Fonda is being honored as one of the '100 Women of the Century.' BY BARBRA WALTERS
Unfortunately, many have forgotten and still countless others have never known how Ms. Fonda betrayed not only the idea of our country, but specific men who served and sacrificed during Vietnam*
The first part of this is from an F-4E pilot. The pilot's name is Jerry Driscoll, a River Rat.
In 1968, the former Commandant of the USAF Survival School was a POW in Ho Lo Prison the ' Hanoi Hilton.'
Dragged from a stinking cesspit of a cell, cleaned, fed, and dressed in clean PJ's, he was ordered to describe for a visiting American 'Peace Activist' the 'lenient and humane treatment' he'd received.
He spat at Ms. Fonda, was clubbed, and was dragged away. During the subsequent beating, he fell forward on to the camp Commandant 's feet, which sent that officer berserk.
In 1978, the Air Force Colonel still suffered from double vision (which permanently ended his flying career) from the Commandant's frenzied application of a wooden baton.
From 1963-65, Col. Larry Carrigan was in the 47FW/DO (F-4E's). He spent 6 years in the 'Hanoi Hilton',,, the first three of which his family only knew he was 'missing in action'. His wife lived on faith that he was still alive. His group, too, got the cleaned-up, fed and clothed routine in preparation for a 'peace delegation' visit.
They, however, had time and devised a plan to get word to the world that they were alive and still survived.
Each man secreted a tiny piece of paper, with his Social Security Number on it , in the palm of his hand.
When paraded before Ms. Fonda and a cameraman, she walked the line, shaking each man's hand and asking little encouraging snippets like: 'Aren't you sorry you bombed babies?' and 'Are you grateful for the humane treatment from your benevolent captors?' Believing this HAD to be an act, they each palmed her their sliver of paper.
She took them all without missing a beat.. At the end of the line and once the camera stopped rolling, to the shocked disbelief of the POWs, she turned to the officer in charge and handed him all the little pieces of paper..
Three men died from the subsequent beatings. Colonel Carrigan was almost number four but he survived, which is the only reason we know of her actions that day.
I was a civilian economic development advisor in Vietnam , and was captured by the North Vietnamese communists in South Vietnam in 1968, and held prisoner for over 5 years.
I spent 27 months in solitary confinement; one year in a cage in Cambodia ; and one year in a 'black box' in Hanoi My North Vietnamese captors deliberately poisoned and murdered a female missionary, a nurse in a leprosarium in Ban me Thuot , South Vietnam , whom I buried in the jungle near the Cambodian border. At one time, I weighed only about 90 lbs. (My normal weight is 170 lbs)
We were Jane Fonda's 'war criminals....'
When Jane Fonda was in Hanoi , I was asked by the camp communist political officer if I would be willing to meet with her..
I said yes, for I wanted to tell her about the real treatment we POWs received... and how different it was from the treatment purported by the North Vietnamese, and parroted by her as 'humane and lenient.'
Because of this, I spent three days on a rocky floor on my knees, with my arms outstretched with a large steel weights placed on my hands, and beaten with a bamboo cane.
I had the opportunity to meet with Jane Fonda soon after I was released. I asked her if she would be willing to debate me on TV. She never did answer me.
These first-hand experiences do not exemplify someone who should be honored as part of '100 Years of Great Women.' Lest we forget....' 100 Years of Great Women' should never include a traitor whose hands are covered with the blood of so many patriots.
There are few things I have strong visceral reactions to, but Hanoi Jane's participation in blatant treason, is one of them. Please take the time to forward to as many people as you possibly can.. It will eventually end up on her computer and she needs to know that we will never forget.
RONALD D. SAMPSON, CMSgt, USAF 716 Maintenance Squadron, Chief of Maintenance DSN: 875-6431 COMM: 883-6343*
Okay, aside from the fact that this first surfaced in 1999 (that was when the Women of the Century list was published), what else does the writer have wrong?

Pretty much everything, it seems.

Snopes has a very long article, Hanoi'd with Jane which debunks nearly every point in this email:
Were Jane Fonda's actions treason, or were they the exercise of a private citizen's right to freedom of speech? At the time, the legal aspects of this question were moot: President Nixon was engaged in trying to wind down American involvement in Vietnam and had to face another election in a few months, so politically he had far more to lose than to gain by making a martyr out of a prominent anti-war activist. (No requirement in either the Constitution or federal law states that the U.S. must be engaged in a declared war, or any war at all, before charges of treason can be brought against an individual.)
On the one hand, Jane Fonda provided no tangible military assistance to the North Vietnamese: she divulged no military secrets, she gave them no money or material, and she did not interfere with the operations of the American forces. Her actions, offensive as they were to many, were primarily of propaganda value only. On the other hand, Iva Ikuko Toguri (also known as "Tokyo Rose") was convicted of treason for making propaganda broadcasts on behalf of the Japanese during World War II (although she claimed her betrayal was forced and was eventually pardoned many years later by President Gerald Ford), and Fonda's efforts could fall under the definition of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy." It is also undeniable that some American soldiers came to harm as a direct result of Fonda's actions, an outcome she should reasonably have anticipated.
The most serious accusations in the piece quoted above, that Fonda turned over slips of paper furtively given her by American POWs to the North Vietnamese and that several POWs were beaten to death as a result, are untrue. Those named in the inflammatory e-mail have repeatedly and categorically denied the events they supposedly were part of.
"It's a figment of somebody's imagination," says Ret. Col. Larry Carrigan, one of the servicemen mentioned in the 'slips of paper' incident. Carrigan was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and did spend time in a POW camp. He has no idea why the story was attributed to him, saying, "I never met Jane Fonda." In 2005, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Carrigan "is so tired of having to repeat that he wasn't beaten after Fonda's visit and that there were no beating deaths at that time that he won't talk to the media anymore."
The tale about a defiant serviceman who spit at Jane Fonda and is severely beaten as a result is often attributed to Air Force pilot Jerry Driscoll. He has also repeatedly stated on the record that it did not originate with him.
Driscoll said he never met Fonda, as the e-mail claims — and therefore, never spit on her and didn't suffer permanent double vision from a subsequent beating. "Totally false. It did not happen," Driscoll said.
"I don't know who came up with [my] name. The trouble that individual has caused me!" he said, referring to the time he has spent repeatedly denying the persistent myth.
Mike McGrath, President of NAM-POWs, has also stepped forward to disclaim the story: Please excuse the generic response, but I have been swamped with so many e-mails on the subject of the Jane Fonda article (Carrigan, Driscoll, strips of paper, torture and deaths of POWs, etc.) that I have to resort to this pre-scripted rebuttal. The truth is that most of this never happened. This is a hoax story placed on the internet by unknown Fonda haters. No one knows who initiated the story. Please assist by not propagating the story. Fonda did enough bad things to assure her a correct place in the garbage dumps of history. We don't want to be party to false stories, which could be used as an excuse that her real actions didn't really happen either. I have spoken with all the parties named: Carrigan, Driscoll, et al. They all state that this particular internet story is a hoax and they wish to disassociate their names from the false story.
Despite the claims of hundreds of Vietnam veterans who maintain they were "there" and can affirm these tales as true, Jane Fonda actually met with only a handful of American POWs in North Vietnam, and even they have spoken out on the record to disclaim the story: "The whole [e-mail] story about Jane Fonda is just malarkey," said Edison Miller, 73, of California, a former Marine Corps pilot held more than five years. Miller was among seven POWs who met with Fonda in Hanoi. He said he didn't recall her asking any questions other than about their names, if that. He said that he passed her no piece of paper, and that to his knowledge, no other POW in the group did, despite the e-mail's claims.
In fact, Fonda carried home letters from many American POWs to their families upon her return from North Vietnam.
Okay, another question: Who the fuck is Ronald D. Sampson? A casual reading of this email might lead you to believe that HE was the POW who was tortured ("I spent 27 months…" "I was on a rocky floor…"

Actually he was not there. His name does not appear on ANY lists of POWs (see for example, POW Network) and it's tempting to think he's one of those Stolen Valor dickwad wannabe's, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and choose to decide that the email just got garbled in the viral spread.

Here's more from Snopes:
The source of the story about a prisoner forced to kneel on rocky ground while holding a piece of steel rebar in his outstretched arms still affirms that account as true, though. Michael Benge was a senior agro-forestry officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) who was working in South Vietnam when he was captured by the Viet Cong in 1968 and held prisoner for five years:
He was at a Hanoi prison in 1972 when a political officer he hadn't seen before asked whether he would like to meet Fonda. "I said yes," he wrote in a 1999 letter that protested the Fonda honors, "for I would like to tell her about the real treatment we POWs received and how different it was from the treatment purported by the North Vietnamese."
Benge said he doesn't know who pilfered his story from his letter and attached it to the Carrigan and Driscoll fictions.
In the 1972 incident, "I think I had maybe a little smarter-than-the-average bear [political officer] who knew I was being cynical," Benge said recently. Benge said he spent the next three days kneeling on a rocky floor with a steel bar on his outstretched hands. Whenever his arms dipped, he was struck with a bamboo cane, he said.
North Vietnamese guards might be the only people able to verify Benge's torture account independently. But, McGrath said, Benge's account is "consistent with [North] Vietnamese policy and conduct about people who didn't cooperate."
If you are the recipient of one of these Hanoi Jane emails, I would hope that at the very least you will trash it and not pass it on. Passing these things on without checking into their veracity actually dishonors people like Jerry Driscoll and Larry Carrigan. It is calling them liars, and that, incidentally, is the best pushback you can have to the person who sent you the email in the first place.

That is how I handled it, and the person who sent it lost no time in sending out the correction to everyone he sent it to.

I don't know how many of those have resulted in death threats, but I'm willing to bet that he got some.


Labrys said...

Thank you for the careful clarification. Jane Fonda was a young moron and did stupid morale-busting shit. She didn't mean to, of course, but she was just not that damned bright.

It does rather remind me of my veteran husband refusing to listen to Joan Baez because she sang anti-war songs; while loving Bob Dylan...who WROTE them!

I was also recently sent an email decrying the lack of notice of the death of a Medal of Honor winner --Huey pilot Capt Freeman because "Michael Jackson died the same day." In fact, Freeman died in August 2008, and Jackson not until the next summer...and not the same month.

The internets, they are full of crap!

Farnsworth68 said...

Thanks, L.
I'm glad that we have access to so much information, but it pisses me off that so much of it can be out and out lies that people will swallow without choking on a shred of skepticism, without an iota of just plain common sense in their heads.
And it scares me that these people vote. We saw what happened earlier this month, and it's not gonna get any better, I think...

evodevo said...

Thanks for this. I am sending it out to all the rightwingers on my email list. I'm sure they have seen it and are passing it around among themselves - they don't send me much of that crap anymore - just the occasional guardian angel glurge. I've jumped down their throats too many times.

Farnsworth68 said...

Good on you, e.
This will be a good turning of the tables on them, then.
Let me know if YOU get any death threats as a result of it, and I'll write about that as well.
--The F Man

Dee Soden said...

G'day Farnsworth68.
This Hanoi Jane email has surfaced on Facebook here in Australia with in the last 48 hours.
In checking it out I came across your blog. I'm interested in what you have said.
I believed the Jane stories at the time. I doubt them now and have done so for a long time. (I'm 60yrs old.)
We were/are all taken in by propaganda at some stage in our lives. The 60's powers that be had it down to a fine art. We are just lucky that these days we can check out what we are being told instead of blindly believing what we are told like a lot of us did in the 60's and 70's.
I don't like Jane Fonda, never have, dreadful actress, and I don't think she should have gone to Nth Vietnam, it was a slap in the face for ALL the soldiers who served there. She was a pawn in the propaganda plague and she should have been able to see that at the time. But she was doing her best to be 'famous' then so I guess there was a lot of things she did that she regrets now, (like Barbarella). She does now.

Farnsworth68 said...

Thanks DS, and welcome to OPOVET. My wife and I spend a month in Oz in 2004 and it was one the best holidays of our lives.
I guess the whole Jane Fonda thing will live forever, since a lot of people want to believe it so much that they are willing to ignore facts to do so.
--The F Man