To the Editor:
I wanted to let you know that after all these years, the Holy Cross Magazine of April 1999 finally became relevant.
I enjoyed reading about some of the people of that era, particularly their
accomplishments. I also valued the story concerning the descriptive episodes
during the campus
recruiting by General Electric, since everything I knew came from the newspaper
and was incomplete. I think some of the student demands at the time were excessive,
but I also think that the school’s administration probably acted before
they thought out the problem.
At any rate, as I look back on nearly 60 years, my reaction today would be different
than it was at the time. Good show.
A.G. Mack, M.D., ’40
To the Editor:
Raising five small children, hating and disagreeing with the Vietnam War, praying
for the “boys” whose lives were on the line, being disillusioned
by those who chose the route to Canada … that’s how we spent
the 60s! Yesterday, we read the Vietnam issue and my wife was touched to
tears. Being a Korean War veteran, I was struck by the pathos evinced on
both sides for what History has established as a fruitless conflict. Thank
you for a remarkable edition!
Bill Collins ’49
To the Editor:
In the April issue of the Holy Cross Magazine, Mr. Donald N.S. Unger noted
that Holy Cross was spared the violence experienced by other campuses in
the 1969–70 academic year and asked, “Why?” The article
credits Fr. Swords (then president of the college), David O’Brien (a
history assistant professor) and the sense of community on campus. Since
the article deals almost exclusively with the first semester of that year,
I would like to address the second semester and offer other factors that
were at least as important in avoiding conflict as the ones cited.
1. Pacifist students. There was a large bloc of students at Holy Cross who
opposed the war in Vietnam and who also opposed the use of violence in expressing
their anti-war views. On key occasions in the spring of 1970, they spoke up
or intervened to keep incidents from escalating to violence.
2. ROTC students. As emotions erupted over the Cambodian invasion, the Navy
and Air Force ROTC students at Holy Cross adopted a deliberate policy of restraint
and conflict avoidance that was intended to prevent confrontations that might
explode into something more dangerous.
3. The staff of Today. The daily newsletter was a valuable aid in providing
accurate information during the crisis and in squelching rumors that might
have snowballed into incidents.
4. Deans Shays, McClain, Harrington, and O’Neil. They were visibly present
at the major events of May, yet remained in the background. Students who desired
to avoid violence had an immediate outlet for passing information they thought
might be useful.
5. Fr. Brooks (then vice president of the College) and Fr. Fahey. As your photo
on Page 14 shows, Fr. Brooks was also a visible presence during the crisis.
I have no other direct knowledge of his and Fr. Fahey’s contributions,
but I suspect they were active in helping Fr. Swords behind the scenes.
6. The small size of the college. Most of the student antagonists in the crisis
had shared classes, majors, dorms, other extracurricular activities, and friends.
In some classes, there was considerable personal respect, and I think all of
this helped temper events.
7. The Kent State example. Nobody remotely expected anything like Kent State
to occur at Holy Cross, but it reminded us all of the unexpected directions
that uncontrolled passions could take.
8. The fundamental sense of fairness at the college. The majority of students
truly believed that while they might disagree with someone, that individual
had a right to an opinion.
One final note. In April 1975, I was plane commander of a Navy, land-based,
P-3 patrol aircraft operating out of U-tapao Thailand during the fall of South
Vietnam. As I taxied out with my crew at dawn on the 28th to support the Seventh
Fleet, two South Vietnamese F-5s which had just fled their country were being
disarmed at the end of the runway. When we returned at sunset, the field was
jammed with all kinds of South Vietnamese military aircraft, including many
transports, and I was told that 2500 refugees had flown in that day. The scenario
was repeated the next day and, during our dawn to dusk flight on the 29th,
another 1500 refugees landed in U-tapao. Their country was gone and the war
was over, one of the saddest chapters in American history. While I did not
take part in the Vietnam War, I essentially attended the funeral for South
Brendan J. O’Donnell ’71
To the Editor:
As a proud alumna of The Cross, I am writing to express my enjoyment of Holy
Cross Magazine. Since graduating in 1993, the magazine has evolved into a
magnificent representation of the pride and honor many alumni exude over
their alma mater and the time spent there. This issue in particular, April
1999, did a superb job with its main feature on Vietnam and its effects around
the country, including Worcester, Mass., and the Holy Cross community. Kudos
to all involved in this classy production. Thank you tremendously for the
hard work on Holy Cross Magazine.
Lisa M. Cascio ’93
To the Editor:
You are doing a marvelous job with the new format of our alumni/ae magazine.
While I’ve always enjoyed past publications — every issue — each
new edition seems to improve on the prior one. This latest issue on Vietnam
was by far your finest. Please keep it up and please thank all of your staff
for the effort and care that is so obvious with each issue.
As I said, I believe this Vietnam issue is your best. When I began reading,
I did not put it down until I had read it cover-to-cover … NONSTOP! I’ve
spoken with some classmates and several other grads and their feelings mirrored
mine. And, whether you were “pro” or “anti” war, all
were moved by the memories the magazine rekindled. Personally, I had forgotten
the depths of the turmoil that raged across America. I hope that your fine
work helps the younger generation appreciate the horror that was Vietnam. I
lost friends and classmates over there. Others I knew damaged their lives attempting
to halt the carnage. That period was also the beginning of the American public
seriously questioning the credibility of our government, whether “pro” or “con.” Your
work reminded everyone of the many facets of daily life which were seriously,
severely impacted by “VIETNAM!”
Thank you and please keep up the
excellent journalism. Hold your heads high. You should all be extremely proud
of the magazine you’ve created.
Robert P. Trudel ’64
To the Editor:
The Holy Cross Magazine Vietnam issue is a notable achievement and the writers
are all to be congratulated for capturing the tone and complexity of that
time. I could barely put it down when it arrived. It is an old story — Vietnam — as
old as Cain and Abel, and as new as Kosovo, today. The Wheel of Misery rolls
over and over through human history.
Reading it, memories flooded my mind. About my hearing, while going through
Freshman Class Orientation in September 1966, of the death of a childhood friend
on a jungle battlefield. Of Martin Luther King asking at a rally in Central
Park in April 1967, “What will we tell our children we did to stop the
bombing in Vietnam?” Of the banner unfurled from the top of St. Joseph
Chapel in October 1969 with the words “Jamais plus d’guerre.” Of
the confusion I felt during those years at Holy Cross why there were so very
few who seemed to feel as I did about the war and the society that created
it. Was I — and some close friends, like Richard Dufresne ’70 and
Peter Benner ’70, whose struggles of conscience I knew — somehow
disordered and the mainstream not?
I entered Holy Cross as an earnest boy intellectually committed to pacifism
rooted in the New Testament I read in a Jesuit high school. Four years later,
I left Holy Cross committing nonviolent felonies up and down the East Coast
to disrupt the war effort any way I could. How is such a change to be explained,
even to myself? In between, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are assassinated;
the Crusader regularly reports the death of recent graduates; members of my
generation are gunned down on college campuses; more than a million Vietnamese
and 58,000 Americans die; Philip Berrigan ’50 is in prison; and, Daniel
Berrigan, S.J., chooses to be a creative fugitive rather than surrender to
federal marshals and FBI agents who are, in all probability, also Holy Cross
graduates. There is a war abroad and a war at home. I chose not to be a guilty
What troubles me about the Vietnam issue is the even-handed celebration of
warriors and dissenters as though they are the moral equivalent and all choices
equal. Did we not all hear the moral injunction of the Commandment “Thou
shall not kill,” or understand the Beatitudes’ “Blessed are
the Peacemakers?” Or, were they just empty word to the many? While I
have learned enough of the horror into which the GIs and lowly junior officers
were placed, to be compassionate of their plight (just read We Were Soldiers
Once – And Young: la Drang, the Battle that Changed the War in Vietnam,
to know what I mean), these thoughts nag me.
Are we not called to discern the Truth? Is Philip Berrigan, of whom a federal
judge in Portland, Maine recently called “a moral giant of his generation,” the
moral equivalent of a three star general (also a Holy Cross graduate) who had
command authority in Vietnam? Should we be nonjudgmental about the choices
by each man during those years? Or, is not judgment demanded? Does Holy Cross,
a Jesuit institution of higher education, judge right from wrong? Is there
a difference between Holy Cross and, say, Ohio State? When will Philip Berrigan
be honored with a Sanctae Crucis medal? Are prophets ever honored in their
own generation? Or, is their truth too harsh, and the disruption of good order
not to be pardoned?
So, accuse me of being mired in recrimination, but the anguish of those years
is still raw in my soul. They remain the crucible of my life and perhaps yours
as well. For me, the words of Camus still resonate loudly: “What the
world expects of Christians is that Christians should speak out loud and clear,
and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt,
never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest man. That
they should get away from abstraction and confront the blood-stained face history
has taken on today.”
After three decades, this question still remains:
Why did so many Men of Holy Cross serve in Vietnam and so few resist?
Shawn M. Donovan ’70
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