Mary, 1969

(Outtake by Daniel Ellsberg from Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers; it fits in between Chapters 21 and 22 of the hardcover edition. It is included in the paperback edition.)

On Sunday, October 19, I was invited to appear on a public television program called The Advocates to talk about the Moratorium and Vietnam policy. I invited Tony and Lynda and the kids to be in the studio audience. I spent the morning copying, then picked up Mary and Robert in the evening to go to the show. I have no memory of what was said in the debate, but Mary—who was just short of her eleventh birthday at the time—after telling me recently that she didn’t understand much of what was said that night, went on to remember someone saying that we were in Vietnam to defend democracy, and remembers me responding that the Saigon regime was no democracy. Pretty good recall, after thirty years.

Before taking the kids home I had to drop by Lynda’s office to pick up the documents I had been copying that morning, to take them back to RAND. Mary recalls that I wanted her to stay in the car while we went upstairs, but she made a fuss about doing that. So rather than leave someone down with her, we took her up to the offices and I told her to stay in the inner office while I did some work on the Xerox machine in the entryway. Once we were all up there, I had decided I might as well finish the document I had been working on. She remembers feeling that she wasn’t supposed to be there (Carol had demanded that she not be involved-though Mary didn’t know about that-and I had agreed).

Once she wandered into the front passage to see what I was doing, and I told her to go back in the other room, and I shut the door. After a while, she got bored, sitting on the couch with Tony. To keep her busy, I gave her a scissors and explained an important task to her. The police didn’t come that night, but if they had they would have encountered a scene even more familial than usual. My ten-year-old daughter and I were sitting on the floor of the inner room, working away, while a thirteen-year-old boy was in the front entry, by the door, at the Xerox machine. Robert was copying, I was collating, and Mary was cutting “Top Secret” off the tops and bottoms of pages with a scissors.

Despite my unease at having gone against her mother’s wishes, I came to be glad in later years that Mary had been part of the effort for one night, for the same reasons that I had wanted to involve her older brother. I liked to describe that scene at rallies or speeches when Mary and Robert were in the audience. I learned very much later that it had a much more mixed resonance for my daughter. I had asked her that night not to tell her mother what we had done. I felt guilty about breaking my promise to Carol—which I had intended to keep, even though I disagreed with her and once it was done I felt glad it had happened—and I expected her to be very angry, even more than she had about Robert and the whole situation.

I didn’t really expect Mary to keep the secret very long; I hoped to postpone the confrontation till I could apologize for it as a one-time event that was past. But Mary never did tell. The problem, to which I should have been sensitive but I wasn’t, was that Mary felt very burdened by the obligation to keep something from her mother, which she’d never been asked to do before. Then when Carol did learn about it six months later, she was understandably furious at me; and more than I realized at the time, Mary felt in the middle. So our memories of this episode were significantly different. Hers had a darker side.

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