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Thursday, August 12, 2010

[haw-info] Preserving the legacy of GI Resistance

To members and friends of Historians Against the War,
 
We're forwarding this message from James Lewes, author of the book Protest and Survive: Underground GI Newspapers during the Vietnam War (Praeger, 2003), who has now undertaken to preserve in digital form the fragile GI newspapers held in the Swarthmore College Peace Collection. He needs especially financial help, which can be in the form of tax-deductible contributions to a Veterans for Peace chapter, as described below.  The project has been discussed in the HAW Steering Committee, and we're recommending it to the consideration of antiwar historians.
 
Jim O'Brien
co-chair, Historians Against the War
 
 
From: James Lewes <g.i.pressproject@gmail.com>
For many years the Swarthmore College Peace Collection has been collecting the newspapers and newsletters created by GIs protesting against war and the conditions under which they served. By publishing stories and voices never heard in the mainstream press or the alternative anti-war movement press, these papers ... [uniquely] ... reflect the charged relationship between enlisted men and draftees with the institution commanding every aspect of their lives . Scanning these important historical documents will make this material accessible to a large, and international audience … [and] … the voices of those GIs heard once more. I applaud James Lewes' efforts to get this work off the ground. (Wendy Chmielewski, George Cooley Curator, Swarthmore College Peace Collection)
Dear Friend,
 
The GI Press Project has one simple goal, to uncover and preserve -- without ideological bias -- all remaining anti-war manifestoes, newspapers, pamphlets and posters produced by active duty servicemen and veterans during the Vietnam-War. These rare and fragile newspapers and pamphlets, that provide irrefutable evidence of the breadth, and depth, of active duty opposition to the wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, are in danger of disintegrating and crumbling to dust. If nothing is done to preserve this incomparable primary source, it will become impossible to reconstruct the debates that animated the GI Press and the actions of the GI movement on which it reported.
 
To preserve this amazing and historically valuable resource I have created The GI Press Project.  The GI Press Project has already garnered interest and support from veterans, activists, and academics. Working evenings, weekends, and days off, I have already scanned and saved to DVD more than 350 newspapers and pamphlets. These include complete runs of 10 papers – including Aboveground, Om, RITA Act, The Ultimate Weapon and Vietnam GI – as well as partial runs of more than 70 other titles. Once scanned each issue may be viewed on the computer screen and/or reprinted at the size originally published. The individual pages of these papers are saved as high quality scans. The GI Press Project will achieve its mission when it is partnered with an archive/special collection that can make these materials accessible on the web.  It is my intention to make these digital issues available as pdf files to anybody interested in the Vietnam-era GI movement at a nominal fee.
 
The GI Press Project is housed near two of the largest collections of original GI Movement materials in the country. To devote the necessary time to scan these holdings and fold them into to the GI Press Project, I have had to adapt my schedule to the hours during which the archives are open and quit the jobs that have funded the project thus far. Consequently, I have to ask for your financial support to make it possible to continue and complete this important task.  While the condition of these newspapers and pamphlets is not uniformly dire, a great many are starting to crumble to dust. In the 1980s a number of GI titles were committed to microfilm, in the belief this would preserve the material for decades and the original copies were destroyed. The remaining newspapers are housed, in complete and partial runs, in various archives and special collections. Despite the best efforts of archivists to preserve them, the acid content of the paper is causing them to become brittle and disintegrate.
 
Financially stretched, and swamped with appeals from worthy causes, you might think the digitization of a couple of hundred newspapers and pamphlets a luxury that can wait. This is not the case. Because the monies you give to the GI Press Project will be used to digitize these remaining, fragile newspapers and pamphlets in full color, and at the size they were originally printed, scholars and historians will no longer be at the mercy of the often poor quality of microfilm.
 
As Dr. Howard Levy commented in the documentary film Sir! No Sir!, there are not many times when people can act to try to change the course of history and be successful in doing so. The voices and actions of Howard Levy and thousands of other GIs must be preserved and hopefully provide a road map to current and future activists on how to stop the war machine in its tracks and force it to change course. By contributing to the GI Press Project, your money will enable this to be done.
 
With a staff of one, this project needs less than $1000 a month and an untold amount of sweat equity to be completed. While it would be nice to be able to rely on the assistance of interns and volunteers, the project rests on my shoulders, a burden I am proud to bear.
 
Our affiliation with Veterans For Peace Chapter 31, an independent 501(c)(3), allows donors to deduct their contributions to the GI Press Project from their taxes. Given the fact the U.S. Government is spending more than one hundred million dollars a day on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this project's estimated budget is less than the military wastes on these wars in the time it took you to read this proposal. However it is comforting to know that every dollar you donate to the GI Press Project is a dollar that cannot be used to aid and abet these wars.
 
At the present time contributions to the GI Press Project may be made payable to: Veterans for Peace Chapter 31, and sent to  Thompson Bradley, 11 Price's Lane, Rose Valley, PA 19065, with a note stating they are to be directed to the GI Press Project.
 
If you have questions about, or suggestions for, the project, please contact by email at either gi.pressproject@gmail.com or james_lewes@yahoo.com.  If you have copies of newspapers and pamphlets you would like me to digitize and add to the project, please send them to James Lewes, 4235 Sansom St., Philadelphia, PA 19104. These will be returned to you or deposited with an archive as you request.
 
If you can think of persons that would be interested in aiding this important project please forward this request to them.
 
Yours Truly
James Lewes, PhD

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