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Committee of Responsibility to Save War-Burned and War-Injured Vietnamese Children Records

 Collection
Identifier: SCPC-DG-173

Scope and Contents

The Committee of Responsibility (COR) collection consists of administrative, financial and legal files; correspondence of the national staff to its chapters, to its field representatives in Saigon, and with individuals and personnel of other organizations; files that document the evacuation and rehabilitation of nearly 100 Vietnamese children; and material that shows how COR staff made itself known to the public through various media, fundraisers, and original films. There is much valuable information about Vietnam itself, particularly about its medical situation during the war, in the reports of COR staff and doctors who visited Vietnam, as well as in the reference section. A small amount of material on the Saigon Children's Shelter Fund shows how certain children continued to be helped for five years even after COR dissolved.

Dates

  • 1966-1978
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1973

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Limitations on Accessing the Collection

Part of this collection is stored off-site. Please contact the Curator at least two weeks in advance of a visit to the Peace Collection to discuss retrieval of off-site materials.

Copyright and Rights Information

None.

Historical note

In December 1966, the Committee of Responsibility (COR) was formed and incorporated in New York. COR was comprised of medical personnel, scientists, clergymen, and concerned citizens who had agonized over American involvement in the bloody Vietnamese Conflict, and who were seeking avenues for helping the civilians injured in the crossfire. It soon became evident that before adequate plans could be made for carrying out this purpose, that hard facts were needed. Therefore, in April 1967 three physicians - Dr. Henry Mayer, Dr. Theodore Tapper and Dr. John Constable - toured 35 provincial hospitals in South Vietnam and met with the South Vietnamese Minister of Health. It was found that as high as 60 percent of the war's victims were children under the age of 16, but because of the exigencies of severely over-crowded hospitals and limited medicine, they were often the last to receive the treatment needed. Many were dying from their napalm burns and other wounds. As a result COR decided to devote its energies to providing direct medical aid by bringing as many children as possible to the U.S. for treatment and rehabilitation. Scores of American physicians offered their services free of charge, and offers of nursing, foster care, physical therapy, and financial aid poured in from across the country as the aims of the group became better known.

The first months of this endeavor, however, were fraught with frustration for COR. It required endless patience to deal with the bureaucracy of both the South Vietnamese and U.S. governments. It was difficult to get permission to evacuate the children and some died before all the paperwork could be completed. Although a Memo of Cooperation with the Ministry of Health was signed, whereby children under the age of 18 who had war-related injuries could be brought to the U.S., delays still occurred. Each child had to be cleared by the South Vietnamese Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance and Bureau of Police, as well as the U.S. Mission and USAF (which shipped the children out on MEDVEC planes). Boys over 12 had to receive permission from the Ministry of Defense to leave the country. One young man was chosen by COR personnel for evacuation, but the Vietnamese military believed he was a Viet Cong and he died in prison. Rapid turn-over of COR staff, both in the U.S. national office and among the field representatives in Saigon, meant that procedures were in flux and confusion was the frequent result. The perspective on what should be done for the children was often different depending on whether it was viewed by a staff-person in the United States versus one in Saigon. In spite of the problems, progress was made. In October 1967, the first three children arrived in the States. Over the ensuing months, nearly 100 children were evacuated and received the finest medical care possible. Their medical triumphs were well-publicized around the country, and COR's reputation for doing something practical, and indeed noble, brought them financial aid from individuals and foundations. Various fundraisers were held by concerned citizens, including concerts by Pete Seeger and other musicians, art shows of drawings by Vietnamese children, and Vietnamese dinners. COR also sold thousands of cards that featured the children's drawings, as well as those with art-work donated by artists such as Alexander Calder. COR developed three films which documented the effects of the Vietnam War on the people of that country and related what could be done to help them, and these were shown by dozens of groups. COR chapters, particularly those in Boston and Berkeley, were active in highlighting the efforts of the national office and did much to raise funds for its continuation. No Vietnamese child was allowed to be evacuated to the United States without written permission from a relative. The South Vietnamese government required that the children be returned to Vietnam as soon as their medical treatment was finished. However, many times the war wiped out whole villages and/or displaced families. COR's field representatives spent much of their time trying to locate relatives and keep them in contact with the children while they were away in the States. A real effort was made by COR to keep the children from being too Americanized, though this was often an uphill battle. Field representatives, accompanying the children when they returned to their relatives, frequently expressed disgust with the foster families who were indiscriminate in the amount of clothing and other items that they sent along with the children. Often they arrived at their village far wealthier than anyone there would ever be. It was understandable that foster families, who had taken care of the children for months or even years, found it very difficult to return them to Vietnam and wanted to give what they viewed as help in starting their new lives. Many sent money to the children for several years. Others vehemently protested the need to send the children back at all, feeling that it would be murder to make them return to such an unstable country. At least one couple refused to give the foster children up, maintaining that their adoption was a better answer. One solution to the problem of keeping the children mentally and emotionally tied to Vietnam rather than the U.S., was to set up shelters for them as an alternative to foster care. One was opened in Berkeley, as well as one in Boston, both called Vietnam House. A shelter was also opened in Saigon, but for a different purpose. The Saigon Children's Shelter, sometimes called Em Dem, was a place where paraplegic children helped by COR could continue to be cared for and rehabilitated, but in their own country. Though the shelter there was administered by the COR field representatives, Vietnamese personnel were hired to cook, clean, and teach. The shelter in Saigon continued until 1978, four years after COR itself was dissolved. COR's last field representative, Bill Cooper, remained in Vietnam after his term of service was over, but he was arrested and imprisoned in 1975, and the records of this collection do not verify his fate. We are left to wonder, as well, what happened to all the children touched by COR throughout its history. COR's national office was first in New York City, but was later moved to Washington, D.C. and then to Newton Centre, Massachusetts. Dr. Herbert Needleman, Associate Professor at Temple University's School of Medicine, was the Chairman of the Board throughout COR's existence. Anne Peretz served as Treasurer of the Board and Francois d'Heurle as Secretary. Honorary Chairmen included Dr. Helen Taussig, noted heart specialist from Johns Hopkins; Dr. Albert Sabin, developer of the oral polio vaccine; Rev. John Bennett, President of Union Theological Seminary; John Wesley Lord, Bishop of the Methodist Church; and Dr. Benjamin Spock. Sponsors included Julie Andrews, Burt Bacharach, Judge David Bazelon, Rabbi Ralph Brickner, Robert McAfee Brown Ph.D., Art Buchwald, Prentiss Childs, U.S. Congressmen John Dow and Robert Drinan, Dr. Alan Geyer, Coretta Scott King, Mrs. Eugene McCarthy, and Gerard Piel. The National Office staff were: Esther Smith, Executive Director

1967-May 1969

Frank Hutchison Executive Director

May 1969-January 1970

Ed Allen, Acting Executive Director

1970

George DeWoody, Executive Director

January-March 1971

Donna Shor, Executive Director

April 1971-February 1973

Eloise Houghton, Executive Director

March-December 1973

Carole Love

Sabina Parks

Jean Peterson

Edith deBurlo, Office Manager



The Saigon office staff were: Peter Franklin, Field Representative

1967

John Balaban, Field Representative

1968-1969

John Spragens

??-April 1969

Dick Berliner, Field Representative

??-June 1969 (on as-needed basis)

Dennis Rothgaar, Field Representative

??-April 1969

Gerald Liles, Field Representative

May 1969-Feb. 1970

Herb Ruhs, Field Representative

December 1969-May 1970

John Amaroso, Field Representative

July-December 1970

Jerry Berge, Field Representive

May 1970-1971

Ed Allen, Field Representative

November 1970-1972

Bill Cooper, Field Representative

June 1972-March 1974

To Kim Hoa (Mrs. Tom Fox)

1969-1971

Dr. Hermann Wissing, COR Doctor

July-December 1970

Extent

17.5 Linear Feet (17.5 linear ft.)

Abstract

The Committee of Responsibility (COR) was formed in 1966. COR was comprised of medical personnel, scientists, clergymen, and concerned citizens who sought avenues for helping Vietnamese children under the age of 16. COR organizers provided direct medical aid by bringing children to the U.S. for treatment and rehabilitation. Approximately 100 children were treated in the U.S. most of whom lived with American families while undergoing medical treatment. Almost all of these children returned to Vietnam once their treatment had been completed.

Arrangement

The contents of the Committee of Responsibility (COR) collection arrived in good condition and it was clearly marked which file cabinets and drawers they had come from. Most files - at least through circa 1970 - were arranged alphabetically by name or subject. However, what was in the files was not always consistent with the folder label, and later material had a different (and somewhat confusing) arrangement order. Therefore, files were sorted and arranged according to eight subject series.

Correspondence required the most sorting and now can be found as follows: 1) letters written and received by national office staff-persons are filed under that person's name; with the following exceptions: 2) correspondence between the national office and the Saigon field representatives is filed under the names of the Saigon staff in Series F; 3) correspondence concerning an individual child is in that child's folder in Series F; 4) correspondence between the national office and a staff-person of a chapter or regional office is filed under Series A, either in the chapter's file, or (if there was enough correspondence to warrant it) under the individual's name; 5) correspondence between the national office and individuals or organizations, which had been delineated by COR as deserving their own folders, were kept as such and appear in Series D. Also, COR staff kept copies of the hundreds and hundreds of form letters they sent out concerning their films, Vietnamese dinners, sale of cards, contributions, requests for information, and recruitment of personnel. For the most part, except for one sample copy, these were discarded unless they had a unique paragraph in them, or if they were attached to an incoming letter that explained something of a concerned citizen's interest in COR. It should be noted that a delineation was made between the various roles a person played in COR's work. For instance, Ed Allen's correspondence while he was the Acting Director in 1971 is in Series D, but his correspondence while he was a Saigon field representative is in Series F. An exception to this rule is Dr. Samuel Epstein, who was on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, and was the Chair of the Boston Chapter. As his correspondence usually dealt with more than one of his roles at a time, it was kept all together in Series A. However, correspondence related to his trip to Vietnam for COR was kept with his 1968 report in Series E. Personnel files contain information concerning the hiring of staff-persons both in the U.S. and Vietnam and are in Series C. The exception are the files of the convoyeuses, which are in Series F. Eight hundred and twenty-six sleeves were processed for the collection's photographs and negatives. These were removed to the photograph collection and separated by size and arranged as much as possible by subject: staff and activities of COR, Vietnam (hospitals, severely wounded or dead persons, general), and group shots of COR children. However, all sizes of photographs of individual COR children were kept together and arranged alphabetically by the child's name. Posters were removed to the poster collection. The following were removed to the audiovisual collection: 1) a reel-to-reel tape of two children singing, dated April 17, 1968; 2) a motion picture film called War's Children produced by COR; 3) sections of a motion picture film called An Evil Hour produced by COR, not spliced together; and 3) a phonodisc of celebrity public service spots Re-File Box, Miscellaneous material received in 1997 Acc. 2017-009

Other Finding Aids

For the catalog record for this collection and to find materials on similar topics, search the library's online catalog.

Custodial History

The Swarthmore College Peace Collection is the official repository for these records.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Catherine Lugar, 1994.

Separated Materials

Items removed:

  1. Photographs
  2. Posters
  3. Phonodiscs, motion pictures, reel to reel tape: See Audiovisual Collection

Legal Status

Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Processing Information

Processed by staff, finding aid prepared by Anne Yoder, August 1995, updated finding aid prepared by Wendy Chmielewski, August 2008.

Creator

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

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