The return of Hanoi Jane


If you wondered what happened to “Hanoi Jane,” she’s alive and well and making a comeback.

The darling of the anti-Vietnam movement who lent her looks, voice and whatever prestige she had as a member of Hollywood’s elite Fonda family of actors to the turbulent protests of the ’60s and ’70s is once again at the head of the march, demonstrating against another president’s plan of action . . . this time in Iraq.

Age, which has been quite kind to her physically, hasn’t seemed to dampen her enthusiasm for confrontation although she has been away from the scene for nearly 40 years and even had earned a measure of respectability in the straight world of God, motherhood and apple pie. If the early Jane is back, can Tom Hayden, her onetime husband and leader of the protest band, be far behind?

The caption under an old picture of Fonda in a recent edition of a national newspaper seemed to reflect this somewhat compassionate view of the new Jane. Everyone has seen the photograph that so angered U.S. men fighting in Vietnam and earned her the unflattering nickname. It shows her in a helmet standing on a North Vietnamese antiaircraft battery in a pose that oozes sympathy for the enemy. The caption of the reprint noted that “many” had found her actions at the time deplorable.

Many? You have to be kidding. Check anyone who served in Vietnam or knew someone who did. Even she conceded years later that it was a mistake. In fact, there were those who equated her with Axis Sally, who broadcast for the Nazis, or the original Tokyo Rose who it turns out was forced to do the same by the Japanese. It is a miracle her career survived. Only overwhelming national anger over that war saved her.

How far we have come since 1941 when the actor Lew Ayres declared himself a consciences objector, explaining that his starring role in the 1930 film of Eric Remarque’s stunning anti-war novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” had left him thoroughly traumatized and opposed to service that required shooting at anyone.

He was the first of his kind in a Hollywood where studios demanded strict adherence by their contract stars to a code of patriotism. Anything less was considered bad for business and would bring instant reprisals. And it did for Ayres, who was shunned by the studio bosses and all but booted out of films. But the quiet, handsome intellectual who had studied to be a doctor more than redeemed himself by serving as an unarmed combat medic, braving enemy fire to save lives on more than several occasions. Young “Dr. Kildare” managed to build a decent career after that.

How unlike today’s Hollywood where film and other personalities are taking a major role in opposing U.S. efforts in Iraq and particularly the president’s latest plan to add more troops to quell the fighting there. This again raises the same question as when Fonda and other movie stars took to the streets for the first time all those years ago. Simply put, why would anyone find Fonda and Susan Sarandon or any other of the actors who took part in last week’s march on Washington any more persuasive than anyone else? They are merely play actors with no real expertise in much of anything that hasn’t been scripted for them.

It was one thing for Ayers to stand up for his principles and put his life on the line without compromising them and quite another to try to convince people as Fonda did the other day that her voice will make a difference so it is time for her to speak out again. Lady, there are any number of Americans who view your first incarnation with loathing and believe, fairly or unfairly, your only credential is that of a traitor. That may be harsh, but others did what you did without lending themselves to the kind of propaganda that provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Being high profile carries responsibilities.

This is not an anti-protest diatribe. Actors are people we love to watch and they have the same rights as anyone else to express their sentiments. But we should understand that playing a part does not qualify them to fill the same role in real life nor does it imbue them with a special understanding beyond that of the average American. Only a very small handful of them have managed to accomplish that.

(Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.)


  1. Samuel Crook

    At the time when Jane Fonda made her Hanoi appearance, I thought she was wrong. I can’t remember if I was in Nam at the time or not. I was drafted, and since I didn’t want to run or go to jail, I went. However, I applied myself in training, and managed to stay a REMF in the freedom hill area of Da Nang. I took my chances, and managed to come out fairly unscaved. Like many, I had family and friends who didn’t make it, and I have always had a measure of respect for anyone who went through that awful war, especially since I have worked in a maximum security mental institution for twenty four years, and have helped in the effort to reabilitate these folks. I have noticed little effort on the part of either Hanoi jane, or other so called patriots, such as the one who wrote this article to help these people, and expect little more for the returning vets from this latest fiasco. As a footnote, I observed that a bunch of celeberties are helping with a new re-hab in texas for those returning from this war, and it always helps to lend a well known name to a cause. I also remember during the last big wave of the republican revolution one thing sticking in my mind, these folks trumpeting their cause against helping those less fortunate, implying that poverty is laziness in disguise. Some of these less fortunate were in fact war vets, who never got over the war. It’s a sad fact that the worst of war vets are neglected, even by those who scream their heads off at swift boat celebs, and others who don’t happen to support the notion that viet nam was anything other than an explotive farce to make many people rich. The domino theory was a brainchild of the council on foreign relations, originally conceived under a differant name, during the Rosevelt admin. These same folks played both sides during the viet thing, supporting anti war protesters, while being given a blank check to trade with the soviets all during the cold war years. What did Jefferson say about merchants? That they were the least patriotic of americans, because profits always take center stage, over and above anything else. and who does the government cater to the most? and where do these politicians spend there time when there not in office? working for their real bosses, along with so many of the retired generals, business. I think everyone should read Greg Palast’s latest ‘Armed Madhouse’. I also think that all these nam vets should put more energy into helping their brother’s in arms from nam, as well as those broken people returning home from the current horror. all their angry energy could be better channeled doing something positive, instead of supporting a bunch of phonies in washington, who in reality do not have a clue what those of us outside the beltway are about. They have learned to tell you what you want to hear, and it is a message that just as easily could come from the devel.

    Samuel Crook

  2. Everyone is missing the story.

    Jane Fonda was cheered in North Vietnam. But today Tom Fox a Quaker Pacifist goes to Iraq and instead of being cheered gets his head chopped off. Elsewhere, being chopped into two pieces also happened to Doctors Without Borders Physician’s, even Margaret Hasson who besides organizing antiwar protests converted to her husband’s religion, Islam.

    Nick Berg continued in Lew Ayres’ tradition of supporting the allied effort 1A-O without violence. Al Qaeda used the communication cables Nick Berg was stringing across Iraq to broadcast his beheading, cutting off then Senator Bill Frist’s grim report on additional Abu Ghraib photos. Britain’s biggest peace march was eclipsed by bombs going off at the British consulate in Turkey and two synagogues.

    Organizing against the war on the theme that Iraq had nothing to due with fighting terror fizzled after bin Laden went on the Internet demanding that Iraq’s not vote. Their voting meant to some that bin Laden failed but not if his goal was to deflate the peace movement.

    However David Duke and a Hasidic Rabbi who claims Israel has no right to exist until after the Messiah comes was given a heros’ welcome in Iran at the Holocaust is a myth conference.

    Expect for a few moderate Palestinians, Muslims hate any non antisemitic Western peace movement as being cowardly devils rather than heroes

    If Jane visited Iraq, she would be divided in two. Though I could be wrong, I suspect David Duke would be perfectly safe in Iraq.

    Bin Laden believes that the 11th century Muslim’s were supposed to be permennant warring class and hates anyone who wants peace, and has been very successful at turning humankind toward war in a variety of different directions. Think back before 9/11 when we thought that extremism would be replaced by progress. Even Muslims were disgusted with extremism such as no doctors for women, and children pulled at the restraints instead of trying to be more militant than their parents. It’s going to be difficult to ever leave Iraq with al Qaeda suicide bombing the withdrawing Americans. RichardKanegis @ 215-563-2866 22 S 22nd St Apt 305 Phila PA 19103