News & Views

"Although Jan Barry never met Robert McNamara, few veterans offered an earlier critique of the war that McNamara did so much to shape.... If McNamara reveals much about why and how the United States fought there, Barry reveals much of what McNamara missed about Vietnam. Together, their stories illuminate what went wrong in Vietnam..."

--From "The Battles of Vietnam: Robert McNamara and Jan Barry" in Contending Voices: Biographical Explorations of the American Past, Vol. II, 2nd Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)

Jan in flight suit posing by special ops B-26 bomber at DaNang air base, 1963

"I left Vietnam in mid-October 1963 and the coup [that overthrew the Diem government] happened two weeks later. … Almost no one in the Washington area knew we had anything like what was going on in Vietnam. Those of us who had been there wore our military patches on our right shoulders, which denoted we had been in the war. Colonels would stop me and say, 'What war have you been in, son? Where is that? We have people fighting over there?'”

--From “An Early U.S. Army Advisor Remembers His Experience (1962-1963)” in Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, 4th Edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2008)

Republic of Viet-Nam driver's license for PFC Jan Barry Crumb, 18th Aviation Co., March 1963

Jan at West Point, summer 1964, with sister Janet and high school classmate Sharon

Jan and fellow US Military Academy Prep School grad (and later Colonel) WT "Tom" Carter at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, Spring 1965

"What is it like for a returning veteran to write under the aegis of the military, where language necessarily serves a far different purpose than it does for the poet? Jan Barry...a poet and decorated Vietnam veteran, tells of his experience...

'To find the space I needed to write more critically, I resigned from West Point... When I submitted my resignation, a kindly colonel called me into his office... "You can stay in the Army and write official histories," the colonel said enthusiastically. He could not conceive of the critical perspective I had acquired in Vietnam, in which official statements were often wildly unrelated to the facts in the field.'"

--From "Poetry and the Pentagon: Unholy Alliance?" by Eleanor Wilner, Poetry Magazine, Oct. 2004

"Jan Barry, a co-founder of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the protest group that [Sen. John] Kerry joined and used as a stage for his activism, said that when it came to discussion about the conflict, tempers still flared--even among friends. 'I'm still mystified why our generation still cannot have a civil conversation about that period of time,' said the 61-year-old journalist. 'But we can't.'"

--Quoted in "The Race to the White House; Refighting Vietnam in Battleground States," by John M. Glionna, Los Angeles Times, Aug. 25, 2004

Floating Petals

See: here, the bougainvillea;
there, the cactus and palm—
here: the lotus flower;
there, the bomb-shattered bamboo

of viet-nam

severed flowers, sharded fronds:
floating in shrapnel,
sealed in napalm.

Young Soldiers, Old War

At an age so young
that our friends at home
still dream about what they
want to be when they grow up,
teenage marines and soldiers
and airmen—graduated
from the back rows
of high school history classes
into the front lines in Indochina—
learn fast about the raw facts
of life and death
in backwater Asian nations
bereft of television,
sewage systems, hot running water
or modern medicine.

Outside our barbed wire,
children die of bubonic plague,
girls the ages of our kid sisters
give birth in dirt-floored huts,
12-year-old boys shoulder
old French rifles
and shoot crossbow arrows
that bring down helicopters
in a war against invaders
that began a thousand years ago.

(From Winning Hearts & Minds: War Poems by Vietnam Veterans)

Photo/Sheldon H. Ramsdell

Jan and future wife, Paula Pierce, at Operation Rapid American Withdrawal peace demonstration at Valley Forge, PA, Labor Day weekend 1970

Nobody Else

For Paula Kay Pierce

Nobody else can
do my grieving
for me—
I have found I need
to go to quiet places
where she and I
loved to go—
to parks and forest paths,
canoeing spots on
secluded streams—
to find how much
of our life was her,
and how much of life is me.

(From Earth Songs)


New Sites

Thanks to advances in user-friendly computer technology, I’ve created additional web sites, including class journals for college courses I teach and forums for my commentaries on current events and environmental issues.
These sites include:

Comments Welcomed

Click and type in a question or comment

Hi Jan

I am hoping to find contact info for Larry Rottman. His book with Trong Thanh is of paticular interest with me because of my own research and documentary work on one of Thanh's photos with a former USAF Recce pilot named Wilmer Newlin Grubb (MIA/POW/DIC).

Is there any information you can share on Larry's literary agent or manager so I can reach him? Surely pass along my info as well.

You can see this project at

Thank you,

Hello Jan,
I have met you several times. I am Igor Bobrowsky's daughter, Juliet. I am trying to get a phone number for Robert "Bobby" Muller. My dad doesn't know I am trying to reach out to Bob. But it is important that I speak with him.

If you do not happen to have Bob's current contact info (it is unlisted), would you be able to refer me to someone who might?
My personal cell is: 917-623-5702

Thank you kindly!
Juliet Pierce

Back in '81, I read "Everything we had" and I now have a "new" copy and decided to (eventually) Google everyone in the book to see if I could find them. I graduated HS 6 weeks after the fall of RVN. Having been born in a family that is aware of current events, this hit me hard. Most of my friends oldest brothers went to VN and thankfully, all came home. I was shocked to hear the much older son from across the street come home and tell the truth about the war. It seems to me he was there about 67-68 or so. I was into John Wayne and could not reconcile it. However, by the time I was in HS, it was very clear to me what a Charlie Foxtrot the war was. Your part of "Everything we Had" fully illustrates it. What a tragedy that fell upon the youth that fell between my oldest step brothers (served pre VN) to my full brothers who missed it on the back end. Thank God... God Bless you and all those who served.

Dear Jan,

Happy new year! I have been trying to contact you. This is John Capozucca. You may remember our efforts over the past decades to preserve Federal Hill in Bloomingdale. Can you help connect me with likeminded jouralists willing to investigate why Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R) is trying to remove protected status (Highlands Preservation Core)from the Springbrook acres horse farm (approx 1OO acres) in assembly bill no. 3448? This critical habitat area and groundwater recharge area, according to the Passaic County Open Space and Recreation Master Plan, was included in the HPCore after then Senator Martin (R) and the late Councilwoman Sue Smith (R) toured the property with environmental watchdog groups and determined it was a vital link in the Preservation Area. Interestingly, the all Democrat mayor and council recently passed a falsehood-riddled resolution no. 2014-81 in support of the assembly bill! Please help if you can. I miss you!

John C

Dear Mr. Barry: My synagogue, Temple Emeth in Teaneck, is interested in getting involved in the hazardous train cargo issue, but we are not quite sure how to begin or direct our efforts. I would appreciate any suggestions you can offer about how to make our voices heard effectively. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Paul Kaufman, Bergenfield, NJ

Ted Forrester has passed away.
Thank you,

Betty Forrester

For your information and reference. Here is another story about Agent Orange - an 18 year old girl at the time volunteering with the USO, exposed to Agent Orange, subsequent two cancers developed, the total lack of help for this American civilian, the struggles suffered -- both financial and emotional for a lifetime.

It is MY Story.

Thank you for taking the time to "meet me."


Lesli Moore Dahlke

Hello. My name is Eric and I am doing a project in school, where I have to take on a role, and my role is you :) I just have a few quick questions. Were you involved in the Tet offensive and why did you believe that the United States should have pulled out of Vietnam as soon as possible? Thank you very much :)

Dear Reader, This Discussion section apparently has a glitch that's been hard to fix. I've switched to other websites to post my comments on various issues, including me know what you think. Jan

I invite everyone to read a great new antiwar book by a Vietnam Veteran. Why Didn't You Have To Go To Vietnam, Daddy? find it here:

Hi Aaron, my best advice is: keep plugging away. But also be careful not to overextend yourself. Focus your writing on topics you feel are important, but also be open to ideas that others may ask you to address. If you're interested in journalism, see if you can do some writing for a local newspaper. Check out internships. There is no magic, only persistence, in being a writer. Jan

jan, my name is aaron watkins, a student of journalism. i don't have a degree yet but i am looking for organizations and non profit newsletters who will let me write for them for free. i feel that i am a phenomenol writer and i could really make a difference in the world if i were given the chance. reading your work and reading about you has made me feel like you can help me. i am 22 years old and am a member of the Arkansas Coalition for Peace and Justice so i get to write for them a bit and lecture on the current state of our government but i want to write for as many organizations as possible. if you can help me please contact me at and will send you some samples of political writings, poetry, etc. thank you so very much for your time. aaron m. watkins

Sorry to say I've fallen behind in keeping up with my own website. One of the hazards,perhaps, of being a news reporter who also enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking and hanging out when I can with friends. That leaves the middle of the night for Internet networking. My resolution for 2007 is to get the hang of blogging down better. Jan

Your page is good, anyway, in reference to my previous comment.
When was your page last modified? What organization or institution are you affiliated with? Thanks for providing this information (not) it really helps me use your page as a source.

Thanks for the piece on Kevin Kelly.
I left military Intelligence Jan 15,1970 and met with Sam Brown at the Moratorium office in DC the next day. My question to peace movement was "where do I go to help?" I was returning to Staten Island and Sam sent me to Kevin in NYC.
When I got home to NY I met Kevin who welcomed me, gave me buttons and bumper stickers, peacefully tagged me and said do the best you can and I began to speak about the Phoenix Program and organize Staten Island. It was almost easy being guided by you guys and example.
This e mail is my prayer of gratitude for Kevin.
"Kevin, you did more than recruit "stars" and many of us know and appreciate your leadership. From one of your middle class American vets who holds you in his heart."
Ed Murphy

Your Memorial Day poem is one of the best, most moving, most powerful, poignant and honest things I've read yet.....and not only that, but it is wonderfully well written..... Thank you for writing it. Although it saddened me, it, somehow, also gave me hope. I'm a fellow me, or reach me at my website: I would love to hear from you....You are GOOD. Sincerely, Doris Colmes

Hi Jan, I just read your article Grounds for Cocnern regarding the ringwood mines. I am a local historian on mines and amatuer photographer. I have a website called in which I have a photo essay on the Peters Mine. I have pictures of the shafts described in your article, and wanted to invite you to look. If you ever wish to include any photos to heighten the impact of the article, i would be willing to give you permission. Thanks for the article and interest. Dan

Dear Jan: I was looking through your newsletters and old comments and was surprised to see the names of my classmates Alex, Aliyana, and Jessica. I am actually a year younger than they are and this year I am also working on National History Day. This is my third year working on NHD, and also my third year going to State level. However, I am doing an individual performance rather than a documentary. The title of the performance is, "Eighteen Today, Dead Tomorrow: Americans Take a Stand against the Vietnam War." At Regionals level I won silver and a National Archives Award for Best use of Primary Sources, the same award as my classmates did last year. I also sent you an email on your hotmail account. I would love to hear from you! Sincerely, Cassie Guevara (

Hey Jan, Good to read you online. We met this summer at the Winter Soldier film showing at the Quad Theatre in the Village. I just wanted to let you know that I have emailed CUNY Graduate Center about enrolling in the writing workshop for Vets and families you will assist in next Spring. I am greatly looking forward to the workshop, and to reconnecting with you as well. Peace, etc., thomas brinson

Jan-- I was searching for another copy of Demilitarized Zones & found the website. How are you & what are you doing? I just quit my real job & am in the MFA program at Columbia College here in Chicago. If you're in town, let me know. Chuck Belanger

Dear Jan!

I really enjoy your communications. On the 4th of July I wrote this little number. Thank you for your encouragement and all your good works.

Love and Peace,

4th of July

The bands are playing.
Whose song?
Is it for the ones fallen,
Their bodies blown apart
- suddenly -
As they waited
to cross the street
or as their Hummer
sped down the dusty road
to Hell
to nowhere

Our mission is clear.
Remember that
when they send your kid
in a box.
No Pictures, Please.

The bands are playing.
Your song?

Jonathan Horwitz


You said
Never stopped a war.

Back in the day,
I wore my hair

To be sure,
For many
'Twas mere fashion.

But for me
'Twas more--
Much, much more.

I wore my "colors"--
I let my
"Freak flag fly."

Hair Zen, of then, to me,
Was best expressed
By a poet:

"We let our hair grow,
"We let our feelings show,
"We let our poets know
"We were listening."

--Jesse Colin Young ("American Dream Suite")

I dare say,
Poetry did
Once stop a war.

We were listening.

Sib Smith

Jan, I'm completing a book on war resistance poetry and wanted to interview you for the book--in particular, on your role in the production of the anthologies (Winning Hearts and Minds, etc.) and on what role poetry played for you and other vets, particularly in creating "symbolic actions"--poetry used in readings, demos, or other actions. I'm trying to complete a revision of the project for UIowa Press by the end of this month, so I hope to hear from you soon! Peace, Phil Metres

Congratulations Alex, Aliyana and Jessica on your documentary, "You Say You Want a Revolution: Protest Songs of the Vietnam War," which I hear won both first place at the New York State Level of the National History Competition and a National Archives Award for Best Use of Primary Sources. Good luck in the nationals next month at the University of Maryland. The footage, songs and interviews stirred up a lot of memories of those times. Jan

Jan: We are a sophomore and two freshmen in high school (West Nyack, NY), producing a documentary on the Vietnam Protest Movement and its many layers as part of a nationwide student history competition known as National History Day ( We would be honored to conduct an interview focusing on your role in the protest movement of the 1960's and 1970's, specifically concerning the founding of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. We strongly believe this is a story that needs to be told in any way possible. Two years ago, Alex wrote about the historic preservation movement in New York City, specifically focusing on Grand Central Terminal. Alex was able to garner primary sources including former NY Mayor Ed Koch and current NY Governor George Pataki before placing first in New York State. Last year, a paper on Soviet Jewish immigration to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach placed third in the state. Again, sources from Neil Simon to Marisa Tomei were utilized. You, and you would join George Katsiaficas, Graham Nash and Peter Yarrow, would be an incredible resource for this endeavor of ours. We would like to make this film of the same caliber. We would appreciate any help with primary or secondary sources you would be able to provide. Thank you in advance for your assistance. Feel free to contact us. We hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, Alex Weisler, Aliyana Gewirtzman, Jessica Seminelli

I have removed, and will continue to remove, anonymous messages that refight old battles. I encourage these writers and others with fierce feelings about the Vietnam war and other issues to write your own accounts of your experiences and observations. Take pride in signing your name to your writings. Jan

Your piece about Gloria is very moving and your newsletter is right-on. I am sorry I never knew her, but thank you for the introduction. It seems like she has given you something to carry on, and thank you for carrying it. In the spring I went on a writing course. I've been teaching courses in shamanism for almost 20 years now and feel it is time to write about that. The course, taught by Barbara Turner-Vesselago, was called "Freefall: writing without a parachute." I've always loved to write, but what happened was not what I had expected. Viet Nam came pouring out. I wasn't a hero over there. I got shot at a few times, and mortered, but most of the time did guard duty at eight hours a stretch, when I wasn't on loan to the other MP outfit or giving the nco's a hard time, getting threatened with summary courtmartials, and getting drunk and all that went along with being a 23 year old kid in that strange world. But what I saw and what I experienced changed me deeply. Today, I am a follower of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk. I find that his way of presenting Buddhism fits very well with my shamanic/animistic practice. I returned to Nha Trang five years ago. The Viet Nam war ended for me. I felt I was forgiven by the Vietnamese people. Yes, there were powerful flashbacks, very cleansing ones. If you haven't been back, I really recommend it. Love and Peace, Jonathan "Howie" Horwitz

Gloria Emerson once described herself to a reporter as "bossy. Ill-tempered. Ferocious. Put all of that down. Do you have it?" And it was all true. But she was also soft-hearted, generous, loyal, and courageous. She had nothing but contempt for generals and presidents, but spent her life giving voice to the voiceless: the privates and corporals and hapless civilians crushed by the powerful. And she was brilliant. Watching her speak without notes to a spellbound audience on the folly of American policy in Vietnam was well worth the quirky late-night calls telling me to put my infant daughter on top of the washing machine and turn it on, I don’t have to do any laundry, just turn on the machine and the vibrations will put Leela right to sleep, goodbye! Everyone who ever met Gloria has a "Gloria Story" to tell. She was one of a kind, and I was often thankful I only had one of her to cope with. But it was impossible not to love someone who could write, "I don’t know even now, twenty years after I left [Vietnam], how to harden my heart so it won’t be punctured yet again by the war." Someone who could say to a discouraged writer, "Don’t keep track of where the other writers are, either behind or ahead. We are all doing what we can, no more no less. It isn’t a race, is it?" Farewell, Gloria. You leave behind many a grieving admirer. Bill Ehrhart

Hi Tuyen, thanks for stopping by my web site and commenting on my presentation to your class. I have to confess, I'm still learning... especially about computers! I'm hoping to create an interactive discussion page and to write more newsletters focused on what I've been learning these days. Hope you'll stay tuned. Jan

Hi! My name is Tuyen and last semester I took the Vietnam Legacy course. I dont know how I ended up at this site but since i am here, I would like to take the opportunity to say thank you! Thank you I guess for living, living through so much that anyone who meet you can only but learn amazing things from you. My father was in the Vietnam war and so consequently my family and I are able to come to the states. I dont know much of my father's experience in the war but hearing your story gave me a glimpse of my father. But once again, thank you, I didnt get a chance to speak to you after class that day but you are an inspiration and a hero.

Chicago Area VFP Message Continued: Please contact: Mike Woloshin:, Scott Berman:, or Stan Campbell: Thanks, Mike

Jan, I am a member of Chicago Vets for Peace & VVAW and an activist since 1971! There are many vets here who would like to hear ypur poetry. If you are in the Chicago Area around April 24, 2004, we will be holding our annual Spring/Elbe Day Dinner(when U.S.& Soviet Forces met on the Elbe, April 25,1945). Please let me & Stan Campbell know if you are available

Would love to invite you to the Midwest. Any chance you'd be visiting Chicago area soon? I'm a Vet for Peace activist in Rockford IL. Stanley Campbell,

Congratulations, Jan! Many kudos for still another book, in a long line of books, books covers/coats of many colors but a common theme. So much of you in each one of them.

Funny how our lives have gotten entwined. Actually, I don’t know how much mine has gotten mixed up in yours, but you have certainly gotten deeply entangled in mine. Two whole courses and a whole bunch of other, important organizations and activities have grown out of knowing you and using your books.

First, of course, there’s the Vietnam course where you, your poetry, and a film of you as poet reading your poetry and talking about the how and why of it figure rather importantly. But all the ideas of the Vietnam course sort of took off on me and now inform the whole CASE program (which I took over five years after first getting involved in the Vietnam course) and also inform so much of my personal life and my work overseas.

Second, there’s your citizen’s guidance work—the practical hands on and the encouragement that individuals, yes, you, can change things work. I introduced that to Jessica and Beth and they built it into Activism & Advocacy and then A&A went to Mongolia and then Mongolia became the Global Partnership in Activism and Cross-Cultural Training and then GPACT began teaching its own courses at Rutgers and courses for high school students and then GPACT created the first annual New Jersey Youth Leadership Conference using the GPACT manual that came from Mongolia that used the A&A approach that started with you.

And now GPACT is running a Study Abroad program in Croatia next summer and a World Youth Leadership Conference, too, that will have 100+ NJ kids plus kids from Moldova, Croatia and elsewhere, and they will all use…. I’m mixed up in all of this, and so I’m part of the backward linkage to you and your ideas. Pretty amazing what you have begat, as they say in the bible.

So again, congratulations, Barry, not bad for a guy who took, what, thirty years to graduate from college!

D. Michael Shafer, Rutgers CASE Program

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