Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, originally posted to VVAW.NET, was forwarded to the blog by David Zeiger, November 11, 2009
Please Don't Thank Me For My Service - Veterans Day Any Year
I can see That Wall in DC. I'm thinking of those two hundred names and faces I can't remember, eighteen and nineteen year old boys from my Basic Training company, "Killed In Action" before their 19th birthdays. I've seen their names on that wall while looking for my own.
Every time I hear, "Thank-you for serving!" I want to reply, "Fuck You!"
For which of the following are you thanking me:
a) learning how to do field abortions on "pregnant gook girls";
b) Being part of a military that is responsible for millions of deaths in Vietnam;
c) Refusing orders to Vietnam;
d) Participating in the GI Movement;
e) Thinking for myself;
f) Not thinking for myself;
g) Following or not following orders?
As a member of the United States Army from 1965 - 1970, I was NOT defending America, our allies, your families or friends. America was NOT being attacked by the Vietnamese, much in the same way that America is NOT being attacked by Iraqis
I for one, do NOT thank current soldiers for their service in Iraq or Afghanistan! I thank and honor those who repudiate this nation's militarism. I thank Iraq Veterans Against the War for their thought, action and lives. I thank those veterans who organized and testified at the IVAW Winter Soldier Hearings last year and who continue to give witness to atrocity and mayhem. ivaw.org/wintersoldier/testimony
On Veteran's Day, I salute, in addition to IVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, The National Liberation Front of Vietnam, WWII Allied Forces led by General Dwight Eisenhower; I salute Resistance Fighters against the nazi's throughout Europe; Resistance movements from South Africa to South Harlem, from Philadelphia to Nicaragua where my government spent millions attempting to overthrow a democratic government who's president had the nerve to be critical of the United States.
I do salute those who choose to defend America. Go get the bad guy, McCain will tell you right where he is, but why thank anyone for killing tens of thousands of civilians cause you can't find the right cave and invaded the wrong nation? Was their a right nation to invade? Should I thank today's soldiers for being lied to and believing in that lie? Perhaps their "good intentions" deserve a salute?
On this Veteran's Day, I again salute those veterans, from the armed forces of all nations who use their training, intelligence and compassion to seek ways in which our governments can find peace without increased militarization of the globe and our ways of life.
You may thank me, and I'd be honored, for my resistance to imperial war, for my support of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam, for my continued activism that nourishes my soul and gives me reason to live and create. You may thank me for encouraging young men and women to think for themselves and to resist deployment orders.
Just don't blindly thank me for anything you don't know about.
Perhaps that's why I can't seem to find my name on that Wall in a waking state.
This review, by Penelope Andrew, was posted to CriticalWomen.net, Februuary 10, 2009
Thirty-six years ago and about a minute before she was smeared and dubbed “Hanoi Jane,” Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and six of their “trouble-making” friends were the subject of a documentary film called FTA. They formed a touring company of activist actors, comedians, singers, and writers who performed in coffeehouses and other venues as close as possible to U.S. military bases in the states and later across the Pacific Rim. They were the thinking troops’ troupe, an anti-USO show, and an alternative to Bob Hope who had previously cornered the market on entertaining the military.
Recently, the IFC Center—the art house Villagers love so well--held two special screenings of this little known documentary by the late director (and incidentally, the first female member of the Directors Guild of America) Francine Parker. It’s hardly been seen since its original release in 1972. FTA is a multi-purpose acronym and variously defined as “Free the Army,” “Free Theater Associates,” or, the soldiers’ favorite term, “F*ck the Army.”
Upon learning of the event, a community organizer from the 1960s, former SDS member, long-time friend of Tom Hayden and busy social worker to this very day cut to the heart of the matter in a phone message, “I am going to go. I’ll be late, so save me a seat. You’ve probably figured out by now that FTA is about Jane and Donald Sutherland’s anti-war tour back in the old 70s when we only had ONE war.”
It’s very interesting that FTA’s re-release follows, by about a month, the theatrical debut of its contemporary first-cousin, Theater of War (2008)—at The Film Forum--which documents the making of the Public Theater’s 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children with a cast led by Meryl Streep.
These celluloid monuments drive home the genius of two of the most potent, anti-war writers who ever lived: Dalton Trumbo and Berthold Brecht. Both appeared before the HUAC. Trumbo was jailed for 11 months on contempt charges for failing to name names, while Brecht literally waltzed his way through with a performance of very broken English with a snappy German accent. In Theater of War, one is treated to a large dose of Mother Courage by way of a new translation by Tony Kushner and a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the artistry of Streep finding her character in a fascinating rehearsal process.
By contrast, FTA is raw. It underscores how infectious was the movement of the 60s and 70s captured through a lens that focuses on: a naïve, fresh-faced Holly Near acting (albeit poorly, but with a lovely enthusiasm) the part of a privileged officer’s wife; the effectiveness of songs (“We Will Not Bow Down to Genocide”) sung simply by folk musician Len Chandler and ballads (“Dear Soldier, We Love You”) performed and written by the talented Rita Martinson; and poetry and skits by the rest of a dedicated cast who worked at fever pitch unencumbered by a need for perfection. The gifted comedian, social satirist and writer Paul Mooney was also part of the company. He participated in a panel with Fonda that introduced the earlier screening of FTA.
The “a spit and a prayer production” as Fonda lovingly calls it traveled a long way to reach American troops who were questioning their roles and actions as military men and women. FTA offered much needed support for those who joined the perilous ranks of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (for one of its most famous members, Senator John Kerry, it may well have cost him the presidency).
The troupe organized communities at home and abroad (just like our current president did in Chicago, it’s obviously an effective and infectious way of getting important things done) and managed to form bonds both small and large regardless of where it landed. There are scenes with Fonda and cast sitting down with individual soldiers: Black-Americans reporting racism and abuse by their white (aptly named) master sergeants; heartbreaking commentary by wounded, shell-shocked, white soldiers who wander the streets of Japan; and young women soldiers retelling stories of being cajoled into getting on “the Pill” for the implied purpose of servicing their male counterparts. The footage of concerts and large-scale demonstrations involving the local talent of organizers, labor unions and artist/activists in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan is impressive.
In one of the most powerful scenes in the film, Donald Sutherland recites from Trumbo’s 1939, anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun about a WWI soldier, Joe Bonham—not the average Joe that Sarah Palin nauseated the American public with but an extraordinary Joe--who has been maimed and disfigured beyond human recognition. One could hear a pin drop in the audience as the atmosphere filled with the fear all nightmares bring coupled with the majesty that occurs when a true artistic moment emerges. Sutherland—unlike the earthier James Cagney who performed the part of Joe in a radio adaptation of the book—speaks the part of the narrator trapped inside what is left of his own body on the scale of a preacher (perhaps reprising his role in Jules Fieffer’s Little Murders as the cynical 1972 review of FTA in The New York Times suggested), and one who is also well schooled in Shakespeare. Sutherland’s riveting oratory while clutching his beaten up copy of Johnny Got His Gun with its still-visible, iconic cover drew cheers from the audience and shouts of “Go Donald!”
Parker, Brecht and Trumbo may have passed on, but anti-war, anti-genocide and anti-poverty spirit continue in the genre of the documentary as practiced by the soothsayer Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11), in the poetry of the images of Heddy Honigmann (Crazy), through the artistry of Errol Morris (Fog of War) and in the passion of Spike Lee (When the Levees Broke). Parker’s FTA has been restored from an archival print and is out on DVD with a bonus feature, a 20-minute interview with Jane Fonda revealing a ton of fascinating back story. Fonda—finding time between rehearsals for a new play 33 Variations—showed up to introduce both screenings of FTA and continues to set the record straight. “Go Jane!”
FTA (1972) directed by Francine Parker with Michael Alaimo, Len Chandler, Pamela Donegan, Steve Jaffe , Rita Martinson, Paul Mooney, Holly Near, Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda. DVD 97 min. with bonus feature: interview with Jane Fonda.
Theater of War (2008) directed by John W. Walter with George C. Wolfe, Kevin Kline, Tony Kushner, Austin Pendleton, Jay Cantor, Meryl Streep and others.
This article, by Brenda Sandburg, was published by Workers World, February 14, 2009
For 37 years no one was able to see “FTA,” a riveting documentary of the anti-war show that Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others performed for GIs during the Vietnam War. The film was yanked from theaters one week after it opened in 1972, and all copies were destroyed. However, the original negatives were discovered a few years ago, and a reprint of the movie is now being released on DVD.
Sundance will broadcast this must-see movie on Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. and on Feb. 28 at 9 a.m. Docuramafilms is also distributing it on DVD so everyone can access it through Netflix and other outlets.
“FTA,” which stands for “F**k the Army,” played at the IFC Center in Manhattan on Feb. 2. Jane Fonda appeared in person to introduce the movie, along with David Zeiger, the director of “Sir! No Sir!,” and a representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War. “It really presents that time in a way that feels present and alive and real,” Zeiger said.
Fonda explained that the FTA show was intended to counter Bob Hope’s pro-war USO program. At the time, there was massive opposition to the war within military ranks, and GIs turned out in droves to see entertainers who told the truth about their experiences. Fonda and Sutherland had just finished filming “Klute,” when Dr. Howard Levy, known for refusing to train Green Berets, asked them to be part of the show.
Witty and moving, the production featured satirical skits (in one number Donald Sutherland and Michael Alaimo call out what’s happening on the battlefield like baseball sportscasters), songs (Rita Martinson’s “Dear Soldier” is remarkable), and searing commentary (Sutherland’s closing call for people to point the gun at the war makers is stunning).
President Richard Nixon would not allow the troupe to take their show to South Vietnam as Bob Hope did, nor permit them on U.S. military bases. Instead, they performed outside bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa and Japan. During the two-week tour they held 21 performances for more than 60,000 service men and women.
Fonda said the military tried to keep them away by issuing releases that gave the wrong times for the show. But she said they waited until the audience turned up, and when thousands were unable to get into the packed venue, they held additional shows so everyone could see it.
“FTA” mixes excerpts from the show with interviews of GIs who talk about the government’s deception and the racism and sexism in the military. One Black GI says Black men should be exempt from the war. “The only place a Black man should fight is where he’s being oppressed,” he says. “I’m not being oppressed in Japan, Pakistan or Vietnam.”
The film also reveals what life was like for people living near U.S. bases. In the Philippines women and girls were forced into prostitution by poverty. One soldier says the prostitutes were required to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and to wear green badges in bars to indicate they were disease free.
In Japan, a man describes what happened when the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Standing by a river, he says the explosion rose 2,000 feet at the epicenter and thousands of people jumped into the boiling river to escape the heat.
Zeiger was instrumental in bringing this extraordinary film back to life. While making “Sir! No Sir!,” a stirring account of GI resistance to the Vietnam War, he tracked down the people who produced “FTA.” He discovered that “FTA” director Francine Parker had just the year before found the original 16-millimeter negative in a vault where it had been edited. She had blown it up into a 35-millimeter print but did not go further, as it appeared thousands of dollars in back taxes were owed on the film.
Zeiger discovered this was not the case, however, and took “FTA” to the Sundance channel.
This review, by Roger Greenspun, was originally published in the New York Times , July 22, 1972
By now most people must know something about the political vaudeville troupe formed by Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and others to offer soldiers an alternate entertainment to say, Bob Hope, or whatever shows are provided by the U.S.O. The troupe called itself F.T.A., which stands for Free Theater Associates, or for other things such as, Free the Army.
Last year, against considerable official opposition, it toured United States military bases in the Pacific. Francine Parker's "F.T.A.," which opened yesterday at the Baronet and Victoria theaters, is a documentary about aspects of that tour.
The film divides its attention pretty evenly between the performers and their audience, and a lot of time is given to interviews with dissident, or merely disillusioned, servicemen. Some hate the war in Vietnam. Some just voice dismay at certain truths about the military like "They don't want you to be an individual") that have been perpetually rediscovered by raw recruits at least since the Battle of Thermopylae.
So much time is given to the audience, whose insights, though real, are neither original nor profound, that the actual performance comes across in scattered bits and pieces.
A lot of the show must have been very funny, with a kind of humor genuinely in touch with the desperation borne of simply being in the service. (Army doctor prescribing to obviously pregnant wife of enlisted man: "Go home and take two A.P.C. tablets and come back when your swelling goes down.")
But as presented in the movie, most of the show doesn't seem very funny, except inadvertently—as when Donald Sutherland seriously recites the prose of Dalton Trumbo with a straight-from-the-shoulder solemnity that happens to be perfectly in keeping with his phony-preacher characterization in Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders."
Occasionally the F.T.A. troupe becomes involved with the local population, so that we may hear the Just Grievances Against American Imperialism of the people of Okinawa or Japan or wherever Miss Fonda and her colleagues happen to be listening. I found most of this a predictable bore, but it did allow for the film's only really striking sequence: an anti-American guerrilla theater pageant in the Philippines that momentarily turns revolutionary passion into a romantic gesture of extraordinary beauty.
Otherwise there are a few good things. There is the lovely ballad singing of Rita Martinson (most of the singing, by Len Chandler, isn't so lovely), some hints at lively routines, an occasional glimpse of deep happiness in eyes of Miss Fonda or of Holly Near. But the spirit of F.T.A. must lie elsewhere, in other times and special places. For all its agility and pressing close-ups, the film doesn't capture that spirit—or even adequately show the kind of experience that might have let it grow.
F.T.A., directed by Francine Parker; written by Robin Menken, Michael Alaimo, Rita Martinson, Holly Near, Len Chandler, Pamala Donegan, Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Dalton Trumbo; editors, Joel Morwood and Michael Beaudry; camera, Juliana Wang, Eric Saarinen and Joan Weidman; music by Aminadav Aloni; produced by Miss Parker, Miss Fonda and Mr. Sutherland. At the Baronet Theater, 59th Street at Third Avenue and the Victoria Theater, Broadway and 46th Street, Running time: 94 minutes. This film is rated R. Released by American International Pictures.
With: Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland, Len Chandler, Pamala Donegan, Michael Alalmo, Rita Martinson, Holly Near, Paul Mooney and Yale Zimmerman.