LEFT OF DAYTON

GEORGE BUSH VISITS THE AF MUSEUM, AND GETS AWAY WITH IT…Nixon didn’t! | April 2, 2008

DEDICATION OF THE AIR FORCE MUSEUM, SEPTEMBER 3, 1971

ANTI WAR GROUPS SPOIL THE PARTY, PART 1.

The deja vu was almost too much for me on Thursday as I, and other anti war/anti-bush activists stood outside the gates to the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson AFB. Riverside police patrolled incessantly up and down Harshman as we stood shivering in a light rain, holding our signs, waiting for the the Decider to show up. Nothing like Sept 3, 1971.

What’s that date got to do with anything? It was the dedication of the Air Force {war} Museum and Tricky Dick, otherwise known as President Richard Nixon [war criminal] was on board and, unlike Thursday, hundreds of protesters showed up to [un]welcome him to Dayton and before the day was done 154 of them had been arrested . Scooped up indiscriminately off the streets, packed into semi trailers & buses without even a nod to formal arrest procedures, some driven off the Air Base and held without charges for hours… the whole scene was one of mass chaos, the kind of action one would expect to occur in some South American dictatorship. But it was happening right here in Fairborn, Ohio.

What, you say you never heard about this?

Not surprising at all. The sanitized version of the dedication enshrined at the Museum bears NO resemblance to what actually occurred that day. It has always really bugged me ever since that this history got re-written and super sanitized. Thirty seven years later events still stands out in my memory.

The rows upon rows of Ohio Highway Patrol and County Sheriff’s cars lined up in a field next to AFLC headquarters. The Base side of Route 444 sealed off with barbed wire fencing and concertina wire, stretching from the old Museum at gate 1-c near Fairborn all the way to AFLC hdqts and beyond. The AF Security trucks stationed all along the way, Cops standing at the ready with their M-16 unslung. The helicopters whirling overhead, and, everywhere you looked there were hundreds [thousands??] of people. Loud slogan chanting people, people with anti-war signs marching down the highway to the new Museum site. Vietnam vets carrying a symbolic coffin and engaging bystanders with guerrilla street theater.

By August of 1971 major events associated with the war had brought anti war fervor in the Miami valley to a new pitch.

  • In March Lt Wm Calley was convicted for the MY LAI massacre.
  • In April Vietnam Veterans Against the War held Operation Dewey Canyon in Washington DC, an event that culminates with the Vets symbolically returning their combat medals in a ceremony on the steps to the US Capitol.
  • A major demonstration the following week saw hundred of thousands of antiwar protesters in DC and in San Francisco as well as other cities.
  • In May it was MayDay’s in Washington, with thousands of well organized activists in running street conflict with authorities, trying to shut down the government, resulting in the arrests of thousands more.
  • In June Daniel Elsberg got the Pentagon Papers published in the NY Times and Washington Post, resulting in charges of treason by the Nixon administration.
  • And American deaths surpassed 45,000 while the Senate passed a “non-binding” resolution urging withdrawal of American forces by years end.

Same Museum, different war, very different response.

Aware that dedication of the new AF Museum was going to be a major event, a loose coalition of local anti-war groups had begun planning efforts to stage a demonstration at the Museum’s dedication early in the summer. News that Nixon was going to be the keynote speaker galvanized anti war force and raised the energy to a higher level: we were determined to spoil the party. And we did.

The anti-war demonstration at the dedication of the AF Museum involved not just Daytonian’s, but engaged people from all over the region. There were people from Cincinnati, Columbus and other parts of Ohio. There were, especially, students from Antioch College. The Yellow Springs students were also equipped with a radio station, WYSO-fm. And the campus was already awash with anti-war activities. Confronting Nixon fit right in to what was already in motion on campus.

{As I am writing this it’s impossible not to think about that role vis a vis the current crisis gripping Antioch. Without belaboring a point, it IS relevant, AND critical, to a “free” society that intellectual freedom is a cornerstone principle. Students have historically been at the forefront of social change, and when an atmosphere exist that not only encourages but nurtures intellectual freedom amazing can things happen. And did. That’s what I remember.}

An excerpt from the Yellow Springs News notes

In 1971, when President Richard Nixon appeared at the Air Force Museum’s opening, a number of people from Antioch and Yellow Springs who tried to attend were detained by authorities. A group of Yellow Springs residents and Antioch students and workers also demonstrated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on April 20, 1972. Many local residents subsequently lent money to cover the bail of the 154 who were arrested there.

[The next installment of this post will add more details about the arrests that took place and the controversy that was created as a result. Links to a NY Time article and the YS News are given below. There is also a link to the text of Nixon’s speech. I encourage others who were at the demo to please, send me your commentary, pictures or printed material, your memories of what happened at the base that day to help memorialize a very important event in Miami Valley anti-war history. Perhaps we can even get the AF Museum to acknowledge the REAL history of the dedication!!]

http://www.ysnews.com/stories/2003/october/history.html

ny-times-af-museum-article.pdf

Nixon’s speech: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=3135

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61 Y/O VIET VET WORKING FROM THE LEFT OF CENTER

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