I was speaking long-distance to one of my
free-lance writers. She had spent the previous week interviewing alumni
Vietnam veterans. "I finish talking to some of these guys," she said, "and I
go to bed and cry myself to sleep."
The war in Southeast Asia ended almost 30 years ago. You would never know this
from the force of emotion we uncovered in the construction of this issue. I was
five years old when the first wave of U.S. combat troops reached South Vietnam;
eight years old when the Tet offensive occurred. The war came to me through the
television. I played on the living room floor as Walter Cronkite read body counts
my parents. In school, the nuns began the day by leading us in prayer for "the
boys in Vietnam." Though I couldn't know it at the time, the soldiers fighting
the war were, truly, chronologically, boys.
I realized this in an epiphanous moment when
R.J. Del Vecchio '64, a Marine combat photographer during the war, visited my
office and brought along some of his stunning work. The images ranged from the
sublime to the horrific, but my foremost reaction was surprise at how young most
of the soldiers appeared. The faces, looking out from beneath graffitied helmets,
were alternately exhausted, haunted, fearful, and charged with adrenaline. Those
faces were also mirrors, reflecting
the faces of the soldiers' cohorts back on campus.
These very different but equally fascinating
photos of campus unrest circa 1969-1971 were sent to me by Donald Reardon '70,
photographer for both The Crusader and The Purple Patcher. Reardon had archived
his negatives after graduation and they have remained primarily in storage for
three decades. Some of these photos are being printed here for the first time.
There is something both unreal and disturbing about the images. The buildings
and the grounds are instantly recognizable but the masses of angry, agitated
students mobbing stairways, hoisting pickets and fists are incongruous with the
backdrop. Those years of the late '60s
and early '70s are atypical of the College's history. The students who attended
Holy Cross during this era of cultural upheaval are unique. And this is all the
more reason to hear their histories and try and understand
It is, of course, impossible to give comprehensive coverage to an event as complex
and multifaceted as the Vietnam War. We have attempted to provide an overview
of alumni who fought in the war as
well as a "mirror" story of the anti-war protests taking place on campus at the
When we solicited stories from alumni of the
era - both veterans and protestors - we were unprepared for the volume of response
we immediately received. Within days of our solicitation's publication we received
almost 50 e-mails or phone calls from alumni willing to share their Vietnam-era
stories. Our selection process was necessarily arbitrary. We had hoped to print
the most compelling stories, but soon realized that almost every letter contained
a unique drama. Even with additional pages, we are still only scratching the
surface of an enormous, highly
emotional, culturally complex narrative.
Every editorial choice was difficult and left a feeling of regret. I want to
thank Bill McCarron '64, for his essay, "Ghosts," Joe Crowley '66 for his essay, "Homecomings," and
Francis Briggs HON'50 for his recounting of his friendship with President Diem.
I hope we can share these pieces with you at some future date.
Finally, while we acknowledge that it is, perhaps, impossible to address the
issue of this troubling war without any taint of ideology, our goal has been,
not so simply, to tell the stories of those who lived through the turbulence
both in Southeast Asia and here in Worcester. And though we may disagree, sometimes
ferociously, over matters political and philosophical, Holy Cross has always
attempted to define itself as a community. At its best, it has attempted to sustain
itself as family. In this spirit, we would like to dedicate this issue to our
alumni who died in Vietnam. You will find their names and their stories in our
timeline section. We ask you to join us in remembering them in your thoughts