Circumventing the problem meant mailing VGI to stateside addresses via the more expensive 1st class mail rate which by law cannot be opened except by addressee. Even so, fictitious return addresses were regularly used to divert attention from curious eyes in the postal system. The actual posting of the bundles also required guile and the assistance of a number of helpers, often members of CADRE, the acronym for Chicago Area Draft Resisters. Dumping large numbers of bundles wrapped in brown paper at the post offices would have drawn attention, as would dropping them in one or two mailboxes in the city. Therefore, each VGI helper would drive around the Chicago metro area and even beyond to nearby cities to deposit smaller, less obtrusive bunches of packages in a variety of mailboxes.
Shipping copies of VGI to GIs at military bases in Western Europe via their APO (Army Post Office) addresses required air mail postage, the most expensive option at the time. However, getting the paper to the troops in Vietnam was the most challenging part of the distribution process. The first step was sending a large number of copies to Tom Barton, the VGI East Coast distributor in New York City. The assumption was that the NYC postal authorities had such enormous mail volume, they were less vigilant on the sedition front. Barton in turn had a list of APO South Vietnam addresses of friendly unit mail clerks who, upon receiving bundles of the latest issue of VGI, were willing to covertly circulate the copies to enlisted men. However, undercover distribution skirted lifer NCO’s who were usually heavily committed to the mission and intolerant of dissent. His modus operandi was to wrap the copies in plain brown paper and use made-to-order return addresses which no commanding officer would ever suspect carried seditious material. His favorite was ‘Protestant Pen Pals’.
Tom Barton was also responsible for distributing VGI to troops in the New York metropolitan area and at nearby bases, including Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base, both in northern New Jersey.Here the distribution technique of choice was for Barton to go with several helpers to the Port Authority Bus Terminal where thousands of troops passed through heading back from leave to the NJ bases and other East Coast military installations. If the group was hassled by the Port Authority police, they’d split up and go individually into the departure tunnels for the buses headed to the bases. To the northeast, Charlie Fisher and colleagues with the Boston Draft Resistance Group (BDRG) assumed responsibility for circulating VGI in New England. Because their main objective was to encourage draft resistance, BDRG hit not only the bus terminals and military bases, but also the induction centers, handing inductees copies of VGI as they got off the bus to process for their physicals. They also distributed papers at the South Boston Army Center, the transfer point for all troops looking for military transportation back to base.
At its peak in late ‘68, 35,000 copies of Vietnam GI were printed and circulated, and on the basis of feedback from the numerous letters-to-the-editors, Jeff heard that each copy was often read by three to five and even more GIs. Those who read VGI came to regard it as the ‘truth paper’, the antithesis of the official military organ, Stars & Stripes.