Internet Myths about Jane Fonda

Memorandum from Phillip N Butler, former Vietnam POW, on the Jane Fonda story:

(A reply I’ve sent out many times to well-meaning friends who might have believed the continuing internet mythology about Ms Fonda.)

I want everyone to know how much I appreciate your support, concern and respect for me and my fellow former Vietnam prisoners of war. But regarding the “Jane Fonda” story, which has been circulating for years on the internet, I feel morally bound to tell you what really took place.

This Jane Fonda story is totally distorted and overblown. Every time I see it some new embellishment has been added. Jerry Driscoll and Larry Carrigan are both friends of mine. I knew them in the prisons of North Vietnam. Neither of them was tortured as a result of an interview with Jane Fonda. That story is a complete fabrication. No one died as a result of beatings after an interview with her. Furthermore, Jane Fonda was not “nominated” or “elected” as one of the 100 best or whatever women. All of this is nonsense that has been played out on the internet for years now.

It’s true that most returned POW’s, myself included, do not look kindly on Fonda because she was photographed on a NVN 37mm gun mount and served as a shill for what was then our enemy. Then she came back home and said we POW’s were being treated well. She even continued to deny that we had been treated badly after we came home and almost unanimously certified having been tortured at least once. (95% of our POW’s were physically tortured at least once.) I was physically tortured some half-dozen times, once for 30 days. We also suffered malnutrition, diseases, lack of medical care, isolation, exploitation and even death at the hands of our captors. But seeing her recently on TV interviews to promote her book has only reinforced my belief that she is merely an immature, conflicted and spoiled woman.

I believe there is a more important lesson here though. In my opinion the Vietnam War was a national and humanitarian disaster. It was pointless and we lost it to the Vietnamese, who now control their own country and are in the process of making their own mistakes much like we do from time to time. It is a sad chapter in our history where a lot of very wonderful, courageous and selfless people served and even gave their lives for no good reason – lives on our side and theirs. We lost 58,000 killed and they lost over 2 million. Our will to fight and win has been damaged and their country has been devastated, probably for centuries, by inconceivable destruction and war pollution. We have around 1,500 still missing and they have around 300,000 missing. And incidentally, we still have over 8,000 missing from Korea and 45,000 from WWII. Let everyone understand that we DO NOT always bring our dead and wounded home. War is chaotic hell on earth and people always get left behind.

Moreover, the real damage of war remains forever in people’s hearts. Thus the repeated genesis of internet memos like this one.

Phillip Butler, PhD