40 Years Ago: The Mining of Haiphong Harbor

Did I mention I was one of those arrested?

In April and May of 1972, the Nixon administration kindled a major controversy “when the president ordered the renewal of bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong (April 16) and the mining of Haiphong Harbor as well as other harbors and inland waterways in North Vietnam” [announced the evening of Monday, May 8]. This latter act kindled student protests all across the country, and certainly at my college, the State University College at New Paltz, NY, as we felt this had escalated the VietNam conflict.

The chronology on some of this is a bit fuzzy, but I know there was a demonstration in the village. Some folks drove about 5 mph on the New York State Thruway and were leafleting other drivers until a State Police escort put a kibosh on that action. I believe that was on Tuesday.

A bunch of us took a bus to the United Nations to attend a demonstration on Thursday, but the rented vehicle was so late that we missed the action. But a demonstration near the draft board in Kingston, NY was held on Friday, and the board closed in anticipation of our arrival, though it was a peaceful protest. The next day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple of other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.

The pivotal event that week was a demonstration at IBM Poughkeepsie on Wednesday, May 10, which building something called the IBM 360. In 1972, the idea of computers programmed to help kill people was quite upsetting to many folks; think an early version of today’s drones. In any case, there were about 360 people protesting – I don’t know if that were actually true or apocryphal.

At some point, we were warned if we walked past a certain point, we would be arrested. It was almost a dare, in its tone. As it turned out, twelve people were detained that day. One guy was charged with disturbing the peace, and his bail was set at $50. Everyone else was charged with fourth-degree criminal trespass, much to the chagrin of the district attorney, who was seeking a stiffer charge; 10 of the 11 got out on $25 bail. The 11th, my friend Alice, had been arrested and convicted at a previous event, was fined $48, and had not paid it. Her bail was set at $250, and she opted not to pay it, and stayed in jail until the trial, eight days later.

Did I mention I was one of those arrested?
(To be concluded on May 17)

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

5 thoughts on “40 Years Ago: The Mining of Haiphong Harbor”

  1. I have just seen and read your article regarding the mining of the Haiphong Harbor back in May 1972.
    The events of that time period are mostly unknown and certainly unappreciated. The Navy was up and down the coast providing firepower where needed, it also monitored the rivers and river entrances. Those of us on gun duty had orders to blow anything out of the water that may have been a threat. On May 24th South Vietnamese Marines were landed during what was then called the largest amphibious operation of the war. Mind you now, Operation Linebacker was in full force as was Operations Pocket Money, and Lam Son, the seceret “Rolling Thunder Op” by a Navy SEAL Team, and several others. the Naval guns were blasting and many received fire from the NVA batteries on shore. The Operation called Song Than 6 was part of a series of Song Than operations and was considered to be the last amphibious landing ever involving US Marines. Quoting an historic reference, the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade was to serve anonymously with their supporting roles being untold to the American Public due to the socio/political climate in America, as you describe in your comments. When something is not told, that means it may or may not have happened. This leaves deserving recognition unattended or altered. The South Vietnamese Marines were landed on Marine LVT,s and LCM,s. I was assigned a machine gun role on a LCM aka “mike boat” that day as a support crew. Americans did not want to hear that the Marines had again landed in Vietnam, and all units were only allowed to participate in those support roles. One of the SEAL team members did not receive due recognition until just recently and the family of his commanding Officer who was killed during that Operation just found out recently how their son died when they received his posthumous Bronze Star. The number of American Pilot losses during that time was double plus the loss of Russian Mig planes from North Vietnam. I personally saw an exodus of citizens leaving Quang Tri in long lines of people that were broken from North Vietnam air strikes, thus leaving huge gaps in those lines of civilians. Every one knew of the anti-war activities back then and though I have just provided one opinion of why those demonstrations took place at that time very little was known of the South Vietnam peoples struggle to keep their country. Us Vietnam Veterans are accused of losing a war. But it was not the Veteran that lost the war. It was the protesting that lost the war. I am not arguing any point, but exhibiting two very different circumstance, occurring at the same time about the same thing. Sort of just comparing notes.

  2. Hello to Lisa and Mr. Omes –

    U.S. Politicians manipulated and betrayed the U.S. military – as always -They also made a huge fortune out of it. What a waste.

    If the French government was not betrayed by certain U.S. politicians in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, The U.S. government could have helped the besieged French contingient to evacuate its forces out as they had promised to, The U.S. could have given a limited supply effort with a very small contingent of U.S. and allied forces, Reasuring and warning the Chinese at the same time that no one would be a threat to their borders, and Vietnam would be still french today and there would have been no 2nd Vietnam war at all.

  3. I read Omes’ post with care. It’s a loaded subject. Those who were there, in Vietnam, are greatly polarized on what happened, perhaps based on their worldview and the treatment they received after coming home. My Nam friends are generally homeless and suffering with PTSD (forced to self-medicate with weed or worse).

    I always bristle at the “protesters caused trouble” logic because the truth is, NO ONE in those days knew jack about protests in the US. Especially Vietnamese civilians. This is not meant to rile ANYONE who had to serve in that mess of a war; it’s simply stating what has been proved to be fact. The American press and politicians, fueled by the big-money war profiteers’ lobbyists, blew that way out of proportion.

    Roger, thanks for a thought-provoking post. I protested in sit-ins at high school (Vestal ’74 here) and look back on the whole war with sadness. It was one of many awakenings of my youth. Amy

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