Howard Zinn Dies

Howard Zinn dies at 87
History is more than "great men and wars"

Historian and author Howard Zinn has died.
Zinn wrote A People’s History of the United States, a runaway best seller that revealed that history is not truth but a carefully selected narrative, written mostly by men and about men.

Long before the popular "People’s History" Zinn had been a quiet revolutionary. He realized that history is not a clean story, it is a jumble of events, and historians pick and choose from among the events to write the story they want to, have been trained to, or have been instructed to write. History is how those in political power define the events they propagate and provide justification for the human misery they cause to the common person.

Zinn focused on what life was like for everyday people through history, and in doing, showed how history is forged by common folk living their lives. The "great men" are described rationally, revealing that they were often fearful, confused, and made world changing decisions on the most self-serving or capricious of reasons.

Howard Zinn From the Website

Zinn was born in 1922, served as a bombadier in World War II and went to college on the GI bill. Part of his education came from going back to the places he’d bombed and talking with the people who had been there.

Not surprisingly, the reality was very different from the "official story". Zinn took part in one of the first raids using napalm, an aluminum salt soap of petroleum and palm oil which causes gasoline to become thick. It sticks to surfaces causing deep burns, and napalm dispensed with an explosive charge causes sucking winds which ignite everything flammable. Napalm became famous in its efficiency against the villages of Vietnam 25 years after Zinn’s historic use. His experiences caused him to become a major voice in the anti-war movement.

Here is Zinn on his experiences during the war:

Well, we thought bombing missions were over. The war was about to come to an end. This was in April of 1945, and remember the war ended in early May 1945. This was a few weeks before the war was going to be over, and everybody knew it was going to be over, and our armies were past France into Germany, but there was a little pocket of German soldiers hanging around this little town of Royan on the Atlantic coast of France, and the Air Force decided to bomb them. Twelve hundred heavy bombers, and I was in one of them, flew over this little town of Royan and dropped napalm—first use of napalm in the European theater.

And we don’t know how many people were killed or how many people were terribly burned as a result of what we did. But I did it like most soldiers do, unthinkingly, mechanically, thinking we’re on the right side, they’re on the wrong side, and therefore we can do whatever we want, and it’s OK. And only afterward, only really after the war when I was reading about Hiroshima from John Hersey and reading the stories of the survivors of Hiroshima and what they went through, only then did I begin to think about the human effects of bombing. Only then did I begin to think about what it meant to human beings on the ground when bombs were dropped on them, because as a bombardier, I was flying at 30,000 feet, six miles high, couldn’t hear screams, couldn’t see blood. And this is modern warfare.



AP/Nick Ut
America's best known napalm photo,
8 year old Phan Th? Kim Phúc runs naked
and on fire from her family's hut.  American
sources were quick to state that the bomb
had been dropped by the South Vietnamese
Air Force, though it was American supplied
napalm and in cooperation with American Military.
She survived 14 months in the hospital
and 17 surgeries.  She now lives in Canada
with her husband and children.

Zinn was in the party to receive the first prisoners returned from North Vietnam; he was beaten along with other protestors of that war. He has since been an outspoken critic of war as social policy.

His life has been chronicled in a movie entitled "You can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train"; available from Netflix.

Zinn’s site is here, but the demand has been heavy and bandwidth denials are possible.

"A People’s History" is still a good read, and Zinn’s voice on emerging history will be missed.

Buy "A People’s History of the United States" for less than ten bucks on line.

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