AFSC’s archival records reflect the intense relationship we had with Vietnam and its people, while we waged peace in the U.S. Our first extensive evaluation of Vietnam occurred in 1954, after which our executive board wrote about military intervention, “nothing but disaster lies down this road.” Our refugee relief program began in December 1965 and by 1967 we had started a rehabilitation program at the hospital in Quang Ngai, which ultimately served thousands of amputees. A 1969 brochure states that our positions were based on “15 years of relationship with Vietnam, the last four with fulltime staff stationed variously in Saigon, Vung Tau, My Tho, Danang, An Khe, Pleiku, Hue, and for the last two years, Quang Ngai.”
Doors opened to AFSC that no other Americans could pass through. Trip reports, memos, and cables show our painstaking, quiet diplomacy. They describe meetings with Henry Kissinger, members of the Treasury Department, and ambassadors and military leaders from all three governments (U.S., North Vietnam, and South Vietnam). White papers evaluate everything from the mindset of peasant farmers and fighters to the true reason Buddhist monks immolated themselves in public. An 18-page, daily log by Stewart Meacham details his experience escorting three captured U.S. pilots home from Hanoi.
The Archives also records our role in a pivotal protest movement in American history. Protest flyers and brochures depict direct precursors to AFSC’s Iraq War campaigns 32 years later. “The human cost of war” appears in materials aimed at Richard Nixon in 1972. Simple hand drawings show the trade-offs between bombs for Southeast Asia, and food and clothing for people in the U.S. Film footage bears witness to the aftermath of indiscriminant bombing campaigns in this war where “saving the village” meant destroying it.