Michael Wong’s Gethsemane

Just a scrap, as I relentlessly pare at this book for the New Press. Above, you see the relentless Jeff Paterson, founder of Courage to Resist, being interviewed alongside my predecessor at CCCO — Mike Wong, who interrupted his otherwise-successful career as a social worker to help fight the poverty draft.

Below, my version of the moment Michael Wong began to realize he was a conscientious objector — just as millions of others were learning some very bad news. The name “Haeberle” below in the name of that of the photographer who turned Seymour Hersh’s story into an internationally known expose. Mike’s story has already been included in far-better books than mine, including one edited by Maxine Hong Kingston.  Still, it’s dramatic enough that it might make for a movie scene:


At Fort Sam, where the Army had trained medic corpsmen since World War II, a young trainee named Michael Wong was stunned on the chow line when he noticed “a small commotion.” In front of Wong, the medic-trainees all were clustered around the newspaper rack, and commenced whispering about what they saw: Haeberle’s full-color photographs, reprinted in Pacific Stars and Stripes.
I was stunned, confused. “Who’s killing women and children? The Viet Cong?”
“No, we are.” When we got to the front we saw this newspaper rack with pictures of My Lai on the front pages. I can’t describe what that did to us.

I’m being encouraged to share these parings here (and not just at Facebook), so stay tuned for more; but I wanted to give due here to one of those who turned that moment into a movement.

Published by chrislombardi

Journalist, novelist, educator.

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