As I type this it's been many weeks
since I saw this event. Since then election season has peaked and
a number of "important" events have come and gone. This story has
hovered in the back of my mind as something worth getting back to.
Here it is, the comments somewhat abbreviated by the fact I've
forgotten some of the details. Sorry about that.
Charlotte began the speaker part of
the event by explaining that Gil and the descendents of the Napalm
Ladies had approached her about doing an event about them. Upon
learning the story she had agreed. One thing had lead to another,
and this event was the result. Then she turned the microphone over
to Barbie, who even fifty years ago had been a key peace activist
in the local community.
Barbie talked about how they had
learned at a Stanford teach in that the napalm bombs being used in
Viet Nam were made locally. They decided to do something about it.
The women that volunteered to make a statement were Aileen
Hutchinson, Joyce McLean, and Beverly Farquharson. Lisa Kalvelage
was added to the team because she had a really compelling story.
This lawyer, Reed Searle, had taken
the case on a pro bono basis because Barbie asked him to. He
explained that what had really swung the judge had been Lisa's
testimony. She had been a young German woman in love with an
American GI. They had tried to get her papers to come to the USA
after his tour of duty, but the guy in the American Embassy had
declined to stamp her papers "because she did nothing to stop the
Nazi carnage." It took a while to get around that, but in 1966 she
was a mother that remembered the experience and had to do
something about the Viet Nam issue because of it. That was why she
joined the group that became known as "The Napalm Ladies". As the
trial went forward the matter got a lot of press all over the
country. Her testimony was widely quoted. Pete Seeger even wrote a
song about it.
The guy in the sweater was Douglas
McLean, the husband (now widower) of Joyce McLean, who had been
arrested that day. He was very clear that the women had made a
deliberate decision to get arrested to dramatize their objections
to a war being prosecuted by a government that wasn't listening to
reason. He talked about how they had gone out there to get
arrested in their Sunday best clothes. They were wearing white
gloves, high heels, and everything else. It was a deliberate
"We're not just hippies doing this!" statement.
Judy Adams had interviewed Lisa
Kalvege for her book. I was lucky enough to get a picture of the
notes she spoke from:
Judy ended her comments by saying
"Now that the books are old and libraries are purging them from
the stacks I'm finding them for sale on the internet." She brought
some copies she got from such sources to the event and gave them
to people who made donations to the Peace & Justice Center.
Gil told the story of his
generation. I took a picture of his notes. Click his picture to
Kathy Dunn was the daughter of Lisa
Farquharson, one of the women arrested that night.
This guy was a Navy Veteran who had
done duty in Viet Nam at that time. He had known then some guys
who are now just names on the Viet Nam Wall. He felt honored to be
among us that evening.
Reverend Nina Kalmoutis had seen the
family of one of the napalm ladies every Sunday for many years at
her church in Sunnyvale.
Phil & Ann closed out the event
by singing that song with the line "If you've been to jail for
justice, then you're a friend of mine" in its chorus. We were all
singing along by the time the last chorus rolled around.
The we marched out to the exact spot
where they were arrested. The current plaque there is a
placeholder, we're expecting a more permanent memorial thing to go
in soon enough. The area is a nature sanctuary. There are some old
industrial looking buildings falling down behind where I stood to
take this picture, but it's clearly not a napalm factory right
now. More like the ass end of nowhere.