Jane Fonda, US actress and former anti-war protester, plays a certain role in the Path of History at the Metropole in Hanoi. Fonda was one of thousand civilians around the world who acted in protest against the atrocity of the US government in an engineered war. In fact she protested against Robert S. McNamara, the forceful and cerebral defence secretary who helped lead the nation into the maelstrom of Vietnam. As early as April 1964, Senator Wayne Morse, Democrat of Oregon, called Vietnam “McNamara’s War.” Mr. McNamara did not object. “I am pleased to be identified with it,” he said, “and do whatever I can to win it.”
Half a million American soldiers went to war on his watch. More than 16,000 died; 42,000 more would fall in the seven years to come.
The war became McNamara’s personal nightmare. Nothing he did, none of the tools at his command — the power of American weapons, the forces of technology and logic, or the strength of American soldiers — could stop the armies of North Vietnam and their South Vietnamese allies, the Vietcong. He concluded well before leaving the Pentagon that the war was futile, but he did not share that insight with the public until late in life (TIME). In 1995, he took a stand against his own conduct of the war, confessing in a memoir that it was “wrong, terribly wrong.” In return, he faced a firestorm of scorn.
Such a firestorm faced Jane Fonda back in 1972.

Jane Fonda in the shelter of the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi. Everybody fled to the bomb shelter – often 4-6 times a night. After the air raid was over everybody returned to their bedrooms. Some decided to stay in the shelter all night.

“In the 1970s, Jane Fonda was a Vietnam protester, touring military towns and universities speaking on behalf of the soldiers she felt were wrongly deployed to Vietnam. “I was infuriated as I learned just how much our soldiers were being lied to about why we were fighting in Vietnam and I was anguished each time I would be with a young man who was traumatized by his experiences,” Fonda writes on her website.

In 1972, Fonda made a trip to North Vietnam {she stayed at the HOTEL METROPOLE, then Thong Nhat} where she broadcast 10 radio shows trying to reach out to the US forces out there in the field. She was not alone. During these years of attack (it was never declared a war), delegations from over 20 nations arrived in Hanoi to stay at the Thong Nhat Hotel. The solidarity with Vietnam was tremendous.

But Fonda’s trip became the subject of controversy when a photo surfaced of her sitting in an anti-aircraft battery in Hanoi. Fonda apologized for the incident in a 1988 interview with Barbara Walters, saying, “I will go to my grave regretting the photograph of me in an anti-aircraft gun, which looks like I was trying to shoot at American planes. It hurt so many soldiers. It galvanized such hostility. It was the most horrible thing I could possibly have done. It was just thoughtless.” Despite frequent bad press, Fonda continues to insist her actions were always in protest of the U.S. government and not soldiers.”

However, all her protest was to no avail. By the end of 1972 the US air force crowned its attacks by the so called “Christmas bombing”, eleven days of continued bombing of North Vietnam and Hanoi. The victims were mostly civilians.

In retrospect it can be broken down to a simple result: the anti-war movement was the first global gathering of kindred spirits. Long before facebook and twitter it was possible to span a chain of of solidarity around the globe. Jane Fonda and thousands of anti-war protesters were right and the US government was wrong. We need to learn from these moments in history. Because war is not about who is right or not, it is only about who is left. And these are the thousands of Americans and Vietnamese who can today get together to share their sorrows and tears in memorial of their beloved ones, lost in one of the world’s most disgraceful moments. To quote McNamara once again: it was “wrong, terribly wrong.”

Andreas Augustin

Material used for this story is based on personal research and the US TIME MAGAZINE ARCHIVES. The photograph of Mrs Fonda was taken in the bomb shelter of the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, reproduced by Andreas Augustin. It is personally autographed on the reverse side by Mrs Fonda.
Text material comes from: