Jane Fonda Faces Protesters, Calls Vietnam Photo a “Huge, Huge Mistake”

Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda attends 'Che Tempo Che Fa' TV Show on January 18, 2015 in Milan, Italy.  Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

Hanoi Jane becomes G.I. Jane? Hollywood legend Jane Fonda reconsidered her controversial stance on the Vietnam War this past weekend, more than 40 years after she voiced her opposition to the conflict. 

The Grace and Frankie star, 77, famously made waves in the early 1970s when she publicized her dissenting opinion about the war, and took it far enough that some saw her as anti-U.S. army. In 1972, she traveled to Hanoi, Vietnam and posed for a now-infamous photo, in which she is seated in a helmet on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft battery. 

Fonda, who was dubbed "Hanoi Jane" after the polarizing incident, addressed the trip and said photograph in an appearance at Frederick, Md.'s Weinberg Center for the Arts this past weekend. 

"Whenever possible I try to sit down with vets and talk with them, because I understand and it makes me sad," she told the audience, according to the local Frederick News-Post. "It hurts me and it will to my grave that I made a huge, huge mistake that made a lot of people think I was against the soldiers."

The opinion that Fonda is or was anti-soldier has remained to this day. Military veterans and critics stood outside of the venue on Saturday evening to protest the Oscar winner's appearance, holding signs and speaking out against Fonda's perceived bias. 

"I'm a lightning rod," Fonda continued. "This famous person goes and does something that looks like I’m against the troops, which wasn't true, but it looked that way, and I'm a convenient target. So I understand."

jane fonda

Fonda has expressed her dismay over the iconic photo in the past. 

"There is one thing that happened while in North Vietnam that I will regret to my dying day — I allowed myself to be photographed on a Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun," she wrote on her personal blog in 2011. "It happened on my last day in Hanoi. It was not unusual for Americans who visited North Vietnam to be taken to see Vietnamese military installations and when they did, they were always required to wear a helmet like the kind I was told to wear during the numerous air raids I had experienced."

"The translator told me that the soldiers wanted to sing me a song," Fonda continued. "He translated as they sung… I heard these words: 'All men are created equal; they are given certain rights; among these are life, Liberty and Happiness.' These are the words Ho pronounced at the historic ceremony. I began to cry and clap. These young men should not be our enemy. They celebrate the same words Americans do."

"The soldiers asked me to sing for them in return," she added. "I finished. Everyone was laughing and clapping… What happened next was something I have turned over and over in my mind countless times… Someone (I don’t remember who) led me towards the gun, and I sat down, still laughing, still applauding… I hardly even thought about where I was sitting. The cameras flashed. I got up, and as I started to walk back to the car with the translator, the implication of what had just happened hit me. 'Oh my God. It's going to look like I was trying to shoot down U.S. planes.' I pleaded with him, 'You have to be sure those photographs are not published. Please, you can’t let them be published.' I was assured it would be taken care of. I didn't know what else to do."

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