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Local Veteran, Anti-War Activist React to Vietnam War Documentary Series

Jake Neher/WDET

Vietnam War veteran John Stopera of Romulus

Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s 10-part documentary series on the Vietnam War wraps up this week. It’s already one of the most in-depth looks at the war most of us have seen on TV.

Vietnam became one of the most significant flashpoints in American society in the 20th Century.

Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson explores the experiences at home and abroad of Metro Detroiters who saw those events up close.

John Stopera is a retired General Motors engineer from Romulus and a Vietnam War veteran who served with the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in Vietnam from January 1969 to January 1970.

Most veterans from Vietnam — and I think from all wars — don’t really talk about it all that much,” says Stopera. “This series has brought out some introspection on myself… My sister asked me soon after I was discharged from the Army, had I ever killed anybody over there? And at that time, I couldn’t answer… Watching (the documentary), then I relayed it to my sister,” that he had killed people in Vietnam.

Host Stephen Henderson also speaks with Frank Joyce, Detroit author and activist, who was heavily involved in the anti-war movement at the time. Joyce was a draft resister, participated in many anti-war demonstrations including the March On The Pentagon, the Democratic Party Convention in 1968, the Mobe in November of 1969 and was arrested at the Justice Department sit-in during Mayday 1971.

Joyce also traveled to Hanoi in May of 1970 and has been back to Vietnam twice since then. He co-edited and contributed a chapter to The People Make The Peace—Lessons from the Vietnam Antiwar Movement.

He says he has some qualms with the documentary and how it treats the anti-war movement.

I concede that Burns and Novick do portray a version of the anti-war movement and in some ways justify the position the anti-war movement was taking at the time,” says Joyce. “But what they really don’t do that, I think, is crucial is that they don’t put the anti-war movement in the context of being the first time in the history of the United States… when there was an anti-war movement that was effective, that was providing a counter-narrative to what the government was saying at the time.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: PBS, American Experience

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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