Longtime Pax Christi Upstate New York leader Jack Gilroy wrote the following essay about his experience with high school students in Australia who took action against nuclear radiation, and how the current generation of young people “again may be able to stir up action to pressure an end to nuclear madness that endangers people and planet.” It was published in the National Catholic Reporter’s EarthBeats column on April 11, 2023, the 60th anniversary of Pacem in Terris, Pope John XXIII’s encyclical which called for an end to the arms race.
In 1970, I was a high school teacher in Endwell, New York, and an upstate New York coordinator for Quaker doctors who brought war-injured Vietnamese children to the United States for medical and surgical treatment — especially napalm burns.
Referring to the harm caused by napalm, Jesuit Fr. Daniel Berrigan in 1968 referred to Vietnam as “the Land of Burning Children.”
Last month in a lecture at Gonzaga University, another Jesuit, Cardinal Michael Czerny, described the U.S. military’s use of napalm in Vietnam as “an early if terrible lesson in the interconnectedness between human and environmental destruction.” Napalm was “all about making their habitat uninhabitable,” he said.
My wife, Helene, and I did not love what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam and were frustrated by the failure of our actions to stop the war.
In New York, I was able to line up plastic surgeons, pediatricians, nurses and hospital beds at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City. As we awaited the first Vietnamese children to arrive, President Richard Nixon ordered all military air transport flights canceled. …