The U.S. waged war in Indochina, especially in Vietnam in the sixties. In the years round 1970 the anti-war movement was at its peak. Even conscripts were sent to the frontlines. Large sections of society opposed against this far away war. The actress Jane Fonda, for example, was a well-known anti-war activist in those days.
Initiatives were taken to help American soldiers (GI’s) in trying to reform and democratize the army from within, or to desert the army.
The IISH acquired a large collection on this topic in 2010. A collection, originally housed in Berlin-Kreuzberg and named as the ‘Archiv Soldatenrechte’, was built up by three men, Dieter Brünn (1951-2010), Dave Harris (1938-2006) and Max Watts (1928-2010).
Recently, the Collection Processing Department of the IISH completed the organization of this large amount of material about American soldiers (GI’s) and the Vietnam War. Volunteer James Lewes did important work by making alphabetically arranged lists of the periodicals and the ephemera belonging to the GI Press. Now accessible:
The Brünn-Harris-Watts Collection
The collection contains newspapers, newsletters and press releases, issued in various countries 1969-1978. The most important items are some 650 various titles of periodicals of the GI Movement. Important titles are ACT - The RITA’s [Resisters Inside the Army] Newsletter (Paris) 1968-1970, The Bond (Berkeley-New York) 1967-1974 and Overseas weekly (Frankfurt am Main) 1969-1973. In addition, there is also a large group of about 150 periodical titles relating to anti-war activity and military service issues in various countries. Besides the periodicals there is also a considerable quantity of GI Press ephemera, ranged by organization and author.
The collection also contains many audiovisual materials: audio cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s and posters.
The Brünn-Harris-Watts Papers
In the archive three sections can be distinguished:
The Watts archive is by far the largest of the three. Among his papers we find correspondence, typescripts and photographic material. Watts’ materials mostly concern subjects like resistance inside the army (RITA), antimilitarism, war and peace. He maintained an extensive network of contacts. This network consisted of RITA’s (GI resisters), FRITA’S (friends of RITA’s), journalists, activists, academics and lawyers. Under his contacts were Noam Chomsky, David Cortright, Jane Fonda and Robert Malecki.
The Harris papers contain mainly materials from his time as counselor for deserting GI’s and as editor for GI newspaper Forward. These materials regard individual deserters, their organizations and collective GI actions.
The Brünn papers mainly contain documents relating to his publishing activities at the (by him founded) Harald Kater Verlag and mostly spans the 1980s and 1990s. Brünn initiated the ‘Archiv Soldatenrechte’ (Soldiers’ Rights Archives) which contained his own collection as well as materials left by Max Watts after he emigrated to Australia in 1981.
The Brünn-Harris-Watts Library
A third part of the conglomerate is the Brünn-Harris-Watts Library that holds about 2500 English and German titles. So far these titles have not been catalogued.