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Movie of the Month: Sir! No Sir!

posted: , by Patti DeLois
tags: Library Collections | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture

sir-no-sirThis month we’re featuring films about politics, and our Movie of the Month is a film that documents the growth of the anti-war movement within the military during the Vietnam era.

It is a popular myth that “hippie protests” in the U.S. demoralized our troops in Vietnam and led to our failure to win the war. This film reveals a rarely talked about truth, which is that the war was ended by an organized anti-war movement within the military itself.

In the mid-60s, there were a handful of individuals and small groups who chose to face courts martial rather than perpetuate the war. One individual interviewed is Dr. Howard Levy, a dermatologist who was tasked with training Special Forces troops to treat minor skin ailments. The idea, he says, was for the Green Berets to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people by treating a few children with impetigo, after which the Vietnamese would welcome U.S. troops, who would then murder (possibly) those same children along with everyone else in their village. When he refused to continue training soldiers, Levy was court martialed and convicted of disobedience and seeking to promote disloyalty.

The movement grew through underground newspapers distributed to GIs both stateside and in country, and by coffeehouses near Army bases where GIs congregated to discuss resistance to the war.

By 1971, GIs had formally organized, creating such groups as WORMS (We Openly Resist Military Stupidity) and VVAW (Vietnam Veterans Against the War.) Following the public exposure of the My Lai massacre, VVAW organized the Winter Soldier investigation in Detroit. From January 31 through February 2, 1971, discharged service people from every branch of the military, along with medical personnel and civilian contractors, testified about atrocities they had witnessed and/or participated in. The purpose was not to defend the actions of Lt. William Calley (the only officer convicted of war crimes in connection with My Lai) but rather to expose the lie that the massacre was an isolated and aberrant incident. Such massacres were, they claimed, the inevitable consequences of U.S. Military policies.

Nixon decided to switch from a ground war to an air war after the Pentagon estimated that over half the ground troops in Vietnam were openly opposed to the war. Unprecedented numbers of soldiers were deserting or being jailed for defying military authority and refusing to follow orders. The air war strategy worked for a little while, but soon the Navy and the Air Force were also sabotaging communications and missions, forcing the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam in 1975.

For the next twenty years, the U.S. government attempted to bury the reality of GI resistance to the war, to the point where many people today believe the “Rambo” version of Vietnam, including the apocryphal story of the Vietnam vet who was spat upon and called “babykiller,” and even people who saw news footage at the time have forgotten that the enthusiastic audiences to whom Jane Fonda delivered her anti-war messages were not hippie protesters but active U.S. troops.


For a documentary about the Winter Soldier investigations, click here.


For other films about politics, click here.






October is American Archives Month – Researching your house

posted: , by Cindy Dykes
tags: About the Library | Library Collections | Adults | Art & Culture | Genealogy | Portland History

Is your house turning 100 years old? Are you curious what it looked like in years past? Who lived there? Who the neighbors were? The Portland Room and Archives have several resources that can help you answer these questions.

The Portland City Directories in the Portland Room date back to 1823, but most useful are the ones that date from 1882, as they include an alphabetical listing of streets along with the heads of household at each address. The directories also have an alphabetical listing of heads of households that include their home address, and often their work address and occupation. Once you have the head of household name, you can go to the census records [available through (in-library) or] and see who else resided with them, as well as obtain biographical information on those residents.

The Portland Room has two digitized maps, the 1882 Goodwin Atlas and the 1914 Richards Atlas, that show streets, addresses, footprints of buildings and what the buildings are made of, as well as a print copy of 1957 Sanborn fire insurance map.

If you home is in a historic district, it may appear in the “Portland Historic Resources Inventory” compiled by Earle Shettleworth and John E. Pancoast (1975). If your house is part of this inventory, the address and name of the house is given, as well as date built, architectural style, and what it was built of. Occasionally pictures can be found, as well as the architect’s name.

24 Monroe St., in 1957 from the Portland Room photo Archives

24 Monroe St., in 1957
from the Portland Room photo Archives

A great source of photos are the 1924 Portland Tax Records available online through Maine Memory Network. Newspaper articles may also be a source of pictures or articles written about your house. Articles appearing in the Portland newspapers from 1945-1992 are indexed.

The Portland Room also had several books on how to trace the history of your home. So come on in and we will help you find the resources that will help you tell your house’s story.

Censorship: We Hate It

posted: , by Patti DeLois
tags: Library Collections | Adults | Teens | Seniors | Art & Culture

not-yet-ratedCensorship takes many forms. Books may be banned or challenged, and so might films, TV shows, art exhibits, and news stories.

We at the Portland Public Library support your right to view unabridged and unadulterated materials, no matter who you are.

Here is a list of films about censorship, and please join us on Thursday nights in October for our annual Banned Book Film Series.

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