The Vietnam War Photo Haunting Jane Fonda – NBCNEWS

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In the 1960s and 1970s, an actress was Jane Fonda was something of a revolutionary icon.

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The Oscar-winning star’s political and civil rights activism has landed her in prison more than a few times, and her infamous mugshots are legendary in pop culture.

Fonda’s rebellion and passion for protest have lasted for decades. So much so that she is often known more for her activism than for her on-screen talents.

But the barbarella actress isn’t too proud of every decision she made during the height of her staunch activism in the 1970s.

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Jane Fonda was and still is known for her political activism. (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

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One photo in particular of Fonda during the Vietnam War haunts her to this day.

When American troops were sent to the Southeast Asian country in 1965, Fonda became an outspoken anti-war activist.

Fonda toured the US to spread her message about the withdrawal of soldiers from Vietnam, meeting prisoners of war and leading protests.

It hurts me and it will happen to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake

Her dedication to the peace movement had a price. Fonda’s anti-Vietnam protests put her firmly in the crosshairs of the FBI and CIA.

In 1970, Fonda, then 32 years old, spent the night in a Cleveland prison on trumped-up charges of drug smuggling.

The National Security Agency had tapped her phone and Fonda posed for a mugshot with a defiant fist to the sky.

This photo shaped a generation of female activists and made Fonda the icon she is today.

But this isn’t the photo Fonda regrets. Rather, it was a photo of the actress taken in Vietnam in 1972, which she says will haunt her “to the grave.”

Jane Fonda Vietnam
Fonda was depicted sitting on an anti-aircraft gun in Vietnam. (Getty)

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Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam three years before the end of the war earned her the nickname “Hanoi Jane,” an inappropriate nickname that followed her for decades.

She had accepted an invitation to visit North Vietnam, a country that had been at war for nearly twenty years.

Fonda stayed for two weeks, during which time a series of photographs were taken of Jane’s encounter with North Vietnamese troops.

The photos showed Fonda wearing a helmet while on an anti-aircraft gun used to attack US planes. She laughed and laughed as she was surrounded by the Vietnamese press.

When the photos reached the American press, she was branded a traitor. Protesters claimed Fonda had changed allegiances and accused her of being against her own compatriots.

According to The Washington Posteven called on the State Department Veterans to try Fonda as a traitor.

The state of Maryland also considered banning her and her films.

Over the past five decades, Fonda has repeatedly apologized for the images and tried to explain her side of the story.

“I’m going to my grave regretting the photo,” Fonda said in 2001, 30 years after it was published.

The actress says she was haunted by the photos. (Getty)

In her 2005 memoir my life so far, Fonda also said she wasn’t sure where she was when the camera lights flashed.

“As I begin to walk back to the car with the interpreter, the implication of what just happened dawns on me,” she wrote. “Oh my god, it will look like I was trying to shoot down American planes!”

“I beg him: ‘You have to make sure that those photos are not published. Please, you can’t get them published.” I was assured it was taken care of.”

Fonda told Oprah in 2012 that she felt she was “frustrated” by the photos of her sitting on the anti-aircraft battery, smiling and smiling.

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“I was already an emotional wreck back then,” she said. “I don’t know if I was framed or not. I was grown up. I take responsibility for my actions.”

She also said she understood the vitriol that followed the publication of the images. “I understand the anger about that,” she added.

Speaking at a personal engagement in Maryland in 2015, the Grace and Frankie star also expressed regret about the photos.

Now in her 80s, Fonda still clings to political activism. (Getty)

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“It hurts me and it will happen to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers,” she said.

But even 50 years after her visit to Vietnam, protests still follow.

At the Maryland site, protesters held up signs that read, “Forgive? Perhaps. To forget? Never.”

Fonda has spent decades trying to make amends with the American people over her controversial stay in Vietnam.

She often speaks to Vietnam veterans to understand their plight and to explain that she was never against the soldiers, only the US government.

“I’m a lightning rod,” Fonda said in 2015. “This famous person goes and does something that seems like I’m against the troops, which wasn’t true. But it looked like this, and I’m a handy target. So I understand.’

Despite the controversy surrounding her passionate activism, Fonda, now 84 years old, still fights power whenever she gets the chance.

In 2019, she was arrested and spent the night in jail after organizing climate change protests at the Washington Capitol.

And Fonda proudly told the Washington Posot she will persevere with her admirable protests until the day she dies.

“Why be a celebrity,” she said, “if you can’t use it for something so important?”

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