Hanoi Journal, 1967
A rare account of an American political activist's wartime trip to North Vietnam
In the fall of 1967, Carol McEldowney, a twenty-four-year-old community organizer living in Cleveland, embarked on a remarkable journey. In a climate of growing domestic unrest and international turmoil, she traveled illegally to North Vietnam with fellow members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to meet the enemy face-to-face. She was determined to understand the foe that had troubled America's leaders in Washington since the end of World War II. With an eye toward history and a recognition of the significance of her journey, McEldowney documented her experiences in the journal reproduced in this book. Through her words we bear witness to a political ideology that saw a connection between the struggles of the poor in America and the tragedy of war-torn Vietnam.
McEldowney first gained the respect of her fellow activists as a student organizer at the University of Michigan. High regard for her intelligence, skill, and hard work with SDS's Economic Recovery Action Program during the years following her graduation in 1964 earned her an invitation to attend an international conference in Czechoslovakia and an offer to continue on to North Vietnam. Though her journal displays only traces of the feminist consciousness that would mark her later political activism, she recorded her observations of North Vietnam clearly aware that she was an outsider—a woman not subject to the military draft, not married to a soldier, and without the heartache of a brother or even a close friend serving in the war.
McEldowney searched for glimpses of everyday life that would help her to better relate to women in Hanoi and the hardships they faced during wartime. As she traveled in North Vietnam, she sought a deeper understanding of the events of her time. Her journal provides readers with a unique lens through which to study those events and gain a new perspective on the Vietnam War era.
"What emerges from a reading of Hanoi Journal, 1967 is not only an understanding of an eighteen-day trip to Vietnam in 1967, but also a testament to the power of journals and other personal records in the study of history. Archivists will find this publication to be useful for instruction and also a pleasing model for the publication of primary sources."—American Archivist
"This is a remarkable document in both subject matter and perspective. . . . Carol McEldowney's skill in personal expression makes this journal a rare gift from the past."—Mary Hershberger, author of Traveling to Vietnam:
American Peace Activists and the War
"McEldowney's journal makes a very substantial contribution to Vietnam War scholarship. Her combination of tireless reporting and analyzing, criticism and self-criticism, is unmatched by any other visitor I have read. . . . It also has a strong feminist angle, and is all the more amazing for having been written by one so young."—Carol Brightman, author of Total Insecurity:
The Myth of American Omnipotence