Articles, Letters, and Memos

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White House Memo to News Editors (1962)


This document, issued after the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, illustrates how the executive branch of the United States attempted to control information during the Cold War. During this period, the U.S. government underwent a fundamental shift in policy regarding the handling of information. This was prompted first by the desire to maintain the American monopoly on nuclear weapons, then to prevent the release of any information that might be helpful to the Soviet Union. However, these restrictions, in addition to dealing with legitimate security considerations, allowed officials to prevent the public from learning about politically inconvenient or embarrassing facts.

While dealing specifically with the emergency of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this October 24, 1962 memorandum typifies the kind of voluntary restrictions that previous and subsequent administrations tried to put in place. Though seemingly benign, such restrictions sought to control the information that was often known to the adversary, leaving only the American public in the dark. The Kennedy administration, with its careful cultivation of the press, had brought a greater degree of sophistication to the management of information than had the Eisenhower administration, yet its goal was the same: to release only the information it wished to release, and to make reporters dependent on official sources.

The following information is considered vital to our national security and therefore will not be released by the Department of Defense. Despite this fact, it is possible that such information may come into the possession of news media. During the current tense international situation, the White House feels that the publication of such information is contrary to the public interest. We ask public information media of all types to exercise caution and discretion in the publication of such information.

  1. Any discussion of plans for employment of strategic or tactical forces of the United States including types of equipment and new or planned location of command or control centers or detection systems.
  2. Estimates of U.S. capability of destroying targets, including numbers of weapons required, size and character of forces required, ability of these forces to penetrate defenses, and accuracy or reliability of our forces or weapon systems.
  3. Intelligence estimates concerning targets or target systems, such as numbers, types, and locations of aiming points in the target system, enemy missile and bomber forces, etc.
  4. Intelligence estimates of enemy plans or capabilities, or information which would reveal the level of success of U.S. intelligence efforts or operations with respect to Cuba or the Communist bloc.
  5. Details as to numbers or movements of U.S. forces, including naval units and vessels, aircraft, missile forces or ground forces, ammunition, equipment, etc. Announcement may be made of such unit movements after the movement has been completed.
  6. Degree of alert of military forces.
  7. Location of aircraft or supporting equipment. Presence of aircraft observable in the public domain may be confirmed.
  8. Emergency dispersal plans of aircraft and units including dispersal capabilities, times, schedules or logistical support.
  9. Official estimates of vulnerability to various forms of enemy action, including sabotage, of U.S. Armed Forces and installations.
  10. New data concerning operational missile distribution, numbers, operational readiness. Estimates of effectiveness of strike capability of missile forces.
  11. Details of command and control systems, including new or planned command posts and facilities, estimates of ability to survive enemy attack, security measures, etc., including sea or airborne command posts.
  12. Details of airlift or sealift capabilities, including size and nature of forces to be lifted, time limits for such lifts, and supply capabilities, with respect to possible specific areas of operation.

Editors having doubts about information and wanting to establish whether or not it is within the purview of this memorandum should contact the news desk, Department of Defense, at Oxford 5–3201, Washington, D.C. Such advice will be on an advisory basis and not considered finally binding on the editor(s).

A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority (1968)

Source: Dr. Benjamin Spock, et al. "A Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority" American Deserters Committee, 1968.


Encouraging resistance to military service had been a major tactic of the antiwar movement from its early days. In the first of these two documents, the authors provide a legal and moral justification for resistance to military service, citing a U.S. treaty obligations and the Western religious tradition of opposition to unjust wars. Yet just as significant as the substance of the document were its authors. Dr. Benjamin Spock (1903–1998) was America's "baby doctor," whose book Baby and Child Care had guided the upbringing of many of the young American men now fighting in Vietnam or protesting against the war. The Reverend William Sloane Coffin (b. 1924) was a respected minister of a prominent New York City church. The fact that these middle-aged, mainstream figures had adopted such a stance was a powerful sign of the broadening scope of the antiwar movement.

A similarly strong indication, though different in substance, was the organization of the American Deserters Committee. In earlier American wars, deserters were tried, jailed, or even executed. The formation of a political action committee for deserters from the U.S. military spoke volumes about the growing disdain in which military service was held by many Americans.

To the young men of America, to the whole of the American people, and to all men of goodwill everywhere:

  1. An ever growing number of young American men are finding that the American war in Vietnam so outrages their deepest moral and religious sense that they cannot contribute to it in any way. We share their moral outrage.
  2. We further believe that the war is unconstitutional and illegal. Congress has not declared a war as required by the Constitution. Moreover, under the Constitution, treaties signed by the President and ratified by the Senate have the same force as the Constitution itself. The Charter of the United Nations is such a treaty. The Charter specifically obligates the United States to refrain from force or the threat of force in international relations. It requires member states to exhaust every peaceful means of settling disputes and to submit disputes which cannot be settled peacefully to the Security Council. The United States has systematically violated all of these Charter provisions for thirteen years.
  3. Moreover, this war violates international agreements, treaties and principles of law which the United States Government has solemnly endorsed. The combat role of the United States troops in Vietnam violates the Geneva Accords of 1954 which our government pledged to support but has since subverted. The destruction of rice, crops and livestock; the burning and bulldozing of entire villages consisting exclusively of civilian structures; the interning of civilian non-combatants in concentration camps; the summary executions of civilians in captured villages who could not produce satisfactory evidence of their loyalties or did not wish to be removed to concentration camps; the slaughter of peasants who dared to stand up in their fields and shake their fists at American helicopters—these are all actions of the kind which the United States and the other victorious powers of World War II declared to be crimes against humanity for which individuals were to be held personally responsible even when acting under the orders of their governments and for which Germans were sentenced at Nuremberg to long prison terms and death. The prohibition of such acts as war crimes was incorporated in treaty law by the Geneva Conventions of 1949, ratified by the United States. These are commitments to other countries and to Mankind, and they would claim our allegiance even if Congress should declare war.
  4. We also believe it is an unconstitutional denial of religious liberty and equal protection of the laws to withhold draft exemption from men whose religious or profound philosophical beliefs are opposed to what in the Western religious tradition have been long known as unjust wars.
  5. Therefore, we believe on all these grounds that every free man has a legal right and a moral duty to exert every effort to end this war, to avoid collusion with it, and to encourage others to do the same. Young men in the armed forces or threatened with the draft face the most excruciating choices. For them various forms of resistance risk separation from their families and their country, destruction of their careers, loss of their freedom and loss of their lives. Each must choose the course of resistance dictated by his conscience and circumstances. Among those already in the armed forces some are refusing to obey specific illegal and immoral orders, some are attempting to educate their fellow servicemen on the murderous and barbarous nature of the war, some are absenting themselves without official leave. Among those not in the armed forces some are applying for status as conscientious objectors to American aggression in Vietnam, some are refusing to be inducted. Among both groups some are resisting openly and paying a heavy penalty, some are organizing more resistance within the United States and some have sought sanctuary in other countries.
  6. We believe that each of these forms of resistance against illegitimate authority is courageous and justified. Many of us believe that open resistance to the war and the draft is the course of action most likely to strengthen the moral resolve with which all of us can oppose the war and most likely to bring an end to the war.
  7. We will continue to lend our support to those who undertake resistance to this war. We will raise funds to organize draft resistance unions, to supply legal defense and bail, to support families and otherwise aid resistance to the war in whatever ways may seem appropriate.
  8. We firmly believe that our statement is the sort of speech that under the First Amendment must be free, and that the actions we will undertake are as legal as is the war resistance of the young men themselves. But we recognize that the courts may find otherwise, and that if so we might all be liable to prosecution and severe punishment. In any case, we feel that we cannot shrink from fulfilling our responsibilities to the youth whom many of us teach, to the country whose freedom we cherish, and to the ancient traditions of religion and philosophy which we strive to preserve in this generation.
  9. We call upon all men of good will to join us in this confrontation with immoral authority. Especially we call upon the universities to fulfill their mission of enlightenment and religious organizations to honor their heritage of brotherhood. Now is the time to resist.

excerpt of vietnam and america, by marvin gettleman deserters' manifesto, december 15, 1968

We, American Deserters living in Montreal, in opposition to the U.S. imperialist aggression in Vietnam, have banded together to form the American Deserters Committee.

We Deserters and associates view ourselves as an integral part of the worldwide movement for fundamental social change. We express support and solidarity with the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the black liberation struggle at home. We are prepared to fight side by side with anyone who wants to bring fundamental social change to the U.S.

Our aim is to help U.S. Deserters and draft resisters gain a more political outlook toward their own actions—to show them that desertion and draft resistance are in fact political moves. Forced to live our lives as political exiles, we view ourselves as victims of the same oppression as the Vietnamese and the American people, not only the minority groups, but also the broad masses of American people who are becoming more aware of the need for change.

Gulf War Letter, February-March, 1991

Source: Aeillo, Anthony. Previously unpublished letter, February 22–March 5, 1991.


After forty-one days and nights of aerial bombardment, the U.S. led Coalition began its ground war against Iraq on February 23, 1991. By the time of the cease-fire five days later, the Coalition ground forces had advanced hundreds of miles with less than twenty hours of sleep. It was the fastest and deepest advance made by any army into enemy territory in the history of warfare. This letter, by a teenaged enlisted man of the U.S. Eighteenth Airborne Corps, provides an ordinary soldier's perspective on speed and violence of the ground war. As the writer relates, not only the Iraqis were confused by the pace of the assault. The letter also clearly reveals the overwhelming ground and aerial firepower available to the Coalition. Indeed, estimates of Iraqi losses in the fighting range from 25,000 to 100,000 or more. In contrast, only 234 Coalition soldiers were killed in action, with 479 wounded and 57 missing.



Okay, the Soviets have just about approved a peace resolution with Iraq. The US hates the resolution and has decided it's time to start the ground war. We were told we'd probably leave today, but possibly tomorrow. I say tomorrow at the earliest. Whenever it is, it won't be very fun.

Randy just beat me for the first time ever at chess. I turned around and beat him back. Uh oh, Carlos is here. He's making me stop, so we can play. Be back in a few.

"Be back in a few"? Sure. That was written around 7 or 8 days ago. It is now the 1st of March and as far as I can tell, the war is over.

So, what was it like? This'll take awhile. On the first day we rolled out, nothing significant happened. We drove all night and I slept maybe an hour or two. It was the second day that things started happening. We started moving at first light after stopping at around 4:30am. We came to a position and dug in. We were there for maybe an hour when someone yelled, "There they go!" I looked up and saw a rocket streaking across the sky. That launcher fired six rockets. As soon as it stopped firing, another launcher started. It was Carlos' and it fired all twelve of its rockets. I was in awe. It was the first time I had ever seen one fired and it was awesome. All of us were jumping around and smiling and laughing. I looked at Mark and said, "Ya know, we just killed a whole lot of motherfuckers." He nodded and said, "I know." First platoon also fired 6 rockets for a total of 24. Our target was a field artillery command center. The forward observer who called in the mission said simply that we had annihilated the target. Our war had started.

Nothing happened again until 3:30–4am of the 3rd day. We fired a night mission and put a hell of a lot of rockets downrange at different targets. By the time the sky started to lighten we were done and preparing to move. Why were we moving? Well, it had been discovered that we were in Iraq and elements of the Republican Guard had been sent our way. We moved and we moved fast. As were hauling ass, we passed one of the targets we had fired upon. It didn't seem like anything had happened to them—the vehicles; I could see no people. You see, what makes our rockets so deadly is that each rocket has a payload of 644 submunitions that look and explode sort of like a grenade. The rocket comes apart over the target and the submunitions are spread over an area, falling like rain. Due to this, you don't really get the blown up vehicles and buildings that cannon-artillery has. You get a swiss cheese effect. The vehicles are destroyed, but from a distance, you can't really tell. Anyway, as we're moving away from the Republican Guard, we came upon about 20 Iraqi soldiers and took them prisoner. Processing them took about 4–5hrs. We started moving again—east towards Kuwait City or as the commander put it: "East. We're just going east. I don't have a grid [location], the colonel doesn't have a grid, nobody has a fucking grid. We're just going east and watching all these motherfuckers surrender." As we convoyed east, we saw dozens of blown and burning vehicles and hundreds of Iraqi soldiers walking west waving white material in their hands. This is still the third day. Okay, here's the exciting part.

We're moving east behind a "maneuver brigade" of infantry. They're armed with Bradley fighting vehicles, Apache helicopters, M–1 tanks and other various armored vehicles. We, for some reason, caught up with and started to pass the maneuver brigade—something we aren't supposed to do. They halt us and we stop at the front of their group of vehicles. As we're waiting, we're watching the fighting around and to the front of us—all you can see and hear are the explosions. I'm near the front of the convoy and I see the Bradley at the front open fire. I thought he was firing at something far to our front. Suddenly, everyone yells take cover and "hits the dirt." I lock and load my M–16 and watch as the turret of the Bradley begins to turn as it continues firing. "Something is coming at us," I say out loud. Across the street, on the right side of our convoy, I see a truck. Tracer rounds are streaking from it and it's taking hits from the Bradley. Everyone opens fire on it. Someone fires a grenade at it and the truck rocks with the impact. It is now taking fire from about 40 soldiers and the Bradley's 25mm machine gun/cannon. The truck fish-tails, swerves to the left, and flips twice. It isn't more than 30 meters from me. I lift my rifle and put it from "safe" to "semi." An Iraqi soldier jumps out of the truck and into my sights. I take careful aim, but don't fire. He's confused and shaken, has no weapon, and is trying to surrender. Sorry, I can't shoot someone under those circumstances. A lot of people around me thought different and continued to shoot at him and the truck. Luckily, he wasn't hit. Another guy jumped out of the wreck with a rifle and kneeled down behind a wheel. He didn't last long. He probably got hit more than 40 times. I didn't fire a single round. We captured 4 and killed 8. The driver had no face and his chest was full of holes, one Iraqi had to have his foot amputated with a bayonet and died anyway, one had a mangled leg, one was shot down, and the other 2 were uninjured. About 10 minutes after we had ceased fire to take prisoners, we looked up and saw a large number of Iraqi vehicles and foot-soldiers coming at us. We turned around and retreated, leaving them to the infantry. We didn't go too far—about 5 kilometers. We turned into an area, set up, and started firing on the forces coming at our front. We fired nearly a hundred rockets. It was dark by now. After firing, we set up a perimeter and started to catch some sleep. Five hours later, we were up and preparing to move—it is now day four—when fire missions started coming up "over the boards." Karen, it was incredible. The next group of fire missions was just incredible. We fired from about 4–5am. Over a hundred rockets were fired. The only reason we stopped was because the cease-fire came down from the president. It turned out that we wiped out 80% of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard who had come out of nowhere. If we hadn't been there, we were told the battle would been one of the worst battles the American forces had encountered yet. Our rockets thoroughly ruined their last offensive. It is now the 6th day and we're waiting to go to Kuwait City. We were told that we can expect to be home within 3–5 days of arriving there or 2 weeks from today. Cheney has stated nearly all American forces will be out by April 1st. As far as we know, Saddam is agreeing to all 12 UN resolutions, though there is still limited resistance from elements of his own forces. An Iraqi colonel stated under interrogation that he wished we would "stop the rain." He was referring to us—MLRS. I believe it's over and that I'll be home soon …

It is now March 5. A lot has happened and a lot is waiting to happen. I just read what I'd written on the 1st. It sounds like I enjoyed what happened. I didn't. I can't explain what I feel about what happened. My battery was responsible for thousands of Iraqi casualties (dead and injured). Thousands. We fired 350+ of the 550+ rockets that were shot by my unit. Everyone is saying that MLRS and the Apache helicopters won the war for us. I just want to go home. I've seen combat. I've seen dead soldiers. It's time to go home. I'm not proud of what I took part in, but I am glad of the fact that my efforts had a lot to do with the absolutely incredibly small numbers of American dead. Mixed feelings. Also, upon rereading the beginning of this letter, I realized that I left out a whole day of fighting. We moved so much and slept so little in those 4 or 5 days that everything is blurred. It's very weird.

Well, the "war" is over. I survived.

Peace and love,


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