tv Vietnam War from the Front Lines CSPAN June 1, 2016 8:00pm-9:11pm EDT
coming up on 3, american history tv and prime time feetures programming on the vietnam war. we have coverage from day three of the lyndon johnson vietnam war summit. a 50th anniversary retrospective on the conflict. next on american history tv, a panel of vietnam war veterans, including two prisoners of war and an army nurse discuss their grim reality of life, death and suffering in vietnam. the discussion was moderated by national endowment for the humanities chairman william add apps and part of a three-day conference at the lbj library in
austin, texas, titled "the vietnam war summit." it is about an hour and ten minutes. ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation of the colors by the naval rotc unit at the university of texas at austin and the pledge of allegiance led by united states marine corp corporal kimberly burres. >> announcer: ladies and gentlemen, please rise for the presentation of the colors by the naval rotc.
gentlemen, please welcome dr. gregory al findes, from the university of texas at austin. [ applause ] . >> well, thank you. i didn't get a promotion that i did not deserve. four more years. good afternoon and welcome to the final day of the vietnam war summit. i would like to take a few moments to thank everybody who participated in the sessions during these past few days. the locals here in austin and the many guests and participants who traveled from across the country to make this summit such a powerful experience. congratulations to mark upgrove, director of the lbj presidential library. [ applause ]
and his fantastic team in the organization. thank you to the lbj foundation for supporting this summit and looking at the legacy of lbj, but also the entire aspects of the vietnam war. for the past two days, we've examined the vietnam war from multiple perspectives. from that of at least four u.s. presidents in their role as leaders of american foreign policy, and their roles as commanders in chief. we've looked at it from the point of view of veterans who returned to the country, returned to their homes in a nation divided. explored their psychological and physical trauma that the veterans faced upon coming home and still grapple with today. we looked at from the point of view of the media, that covers the war that eventually divided
the nation. and finally, today we will look at it from multiple perspectives, also. now before we get to that, just a few hours ago i participated in an incredible ceremony that is part of the summit. a veterans' recognition ceremony just outside on the plain plaza and i hope everybody here has attended one of those recognition ceremonies. i had the honor of presenting the vietnam veteran recognition pins to several who served the nation. i heard their stories, where they served in vietnam, forward observer, infantrymen, artillery, a pilot. some of them showed me photographs of them in vietnam. one veteran showed me the draft notice that he received that called him to serve our nation. these are incredible stories, each and every one and it is an
honor to recognize the veterans here today. and now this afternoon, we will hear firsthand about the daily reality of war from those who were there. our first program today is titled "the troops, a few from the front lines." please join me in welcoming car onny forester who serves on the national board of p.o.w. and m.i.a. families. car onny. [ applause ] >> good afternoon. my name is core onny forester. my father, captain ron forester, united states marine corp, is still missing in action in north vietnam. he is only one of 1621 americans who are still missing from the war in vietnam.
104 of them are also texans. he is only one of 3417 texans who sacrificed their lives in vietnam. but he is the only one that i call "daddy." my family, like all in my family, still wait for answers. and my family, like our gold star families, missed their loved ones every day. and we greatly thank our vietnam veterans, for it is you who stand by our side and hold us up, even though many vietnam veterans still work to resolve their own demons and we can't forget the veterans' families because they served too. [ applause ] >> for pow/mia families, gold star families, and for many of
our veterans, the vietnam war is not really over. it really never can be, with an empty chair at the holiday table, the what-ifs and the won stand struggle for closure and healing. this is our reality. this is the cost of war. as a board member, with the national league of pow/mia families, i have the honor of working with other families like mine, and representing them in talks with our government and foreign governments as well. i also share in the celebration that comes with any answer to an m.i.a. fate. and answers do come, they just come very slowly. i'm also a proud participant of run for the wall which is a cross country pilgrimage that focuses on promoting our veterans' healing, calling for a full accounting of p.o.w. and m.i.a., honoring the ultimate
sacrifice of those killed in action, and to support our military personnel around the world. our outreach program looks to embrace m.i.a. and kaa families along the route so we could let them know their loved one is not forgotten and we appreciate and understand the family sacrifice. now sacrifice is no stranger to any of your panel members here today. while i have just shared with you the reality of life after the war, your panel members will share with you the reality of the war. so please allow me to introduce your panel for this afternoon's session, the troops from the front lines. liz allen is a graduate of ohio state university with a masters in psychiatric nursing. she joined the united states army to help men like her own brother serving in vietnam. she requested front-line duty
and was assigned to the 12th evac hospital in kochi. in the winter of 1967 she was transferred to a field hospital, soon to come under attack during the tet offensive. completing her tour of duty in earp of 1968, she went on to serve 14 years in the u.s. army reserves. john sibley butter was drafted in the united states army shortly after graduating from lsu. he served two years in vietnam and was awarded a bronze star for valor in combat. author and pro fessor at the mccomb school of business at the university of texas at austin, his writings include the book be all that you could be. and he researched the involvement of african-americans in the vietnam war. isaac camacho enlisted in the united states army in 1955. he served as an airborne jump instructor before becoming a member of the newly-formed 77th
special forces group. he served two tours in vietnam. one in the asha valley and the other in wayne geea. he was captured and imprisoned by vietcong force and became the first to escape a camp. he earned the silver star and zinged service cross for his service in vietnam. ken wallingford entered the u.s. army in 1969. he was sent to vietnam in 1970 as a sniper with the 25th infantry division. a year later he volunteered for a second tour as a military adviser with the military assistance command, vietnam. in april of 1972 he was captured and imprisoned in the jungles of cambodia for more than ten months before being released at the signing of the paris peace accords. he was awarded the silver star and the bronze star. he is currently the senior adviser to the executive
secretary to the veterans land board. your moderator today will be dr. william adams. william-bro-adams instruction was interrupped by years in the army in the vietnam war. he credits his experience as part of what made him study and teach in the humanities. he served in colby college from 2000 to 2014 when in 2014 he became the tenth chairman of the national endowment for the humanities. join me in welcoming your panel to the stage. [ applause ]
>> good afternoon and thank you all for coming. we're glad you're here and we're delighted to be here and we're looking forward to this hour or so of conversation about our experiences. this is the moment, as president fen ves said, that we have a chance to talk about the experience of being in vietnam and that is, of course, one of the most important dimensions of this summit. and that what we are going to do today. so thank you again for being with us as we remember and recall some of the experiences that we had. i'm going to start with that very question and ask, starting with liz and going down the line here, i'm going to ask each of the panelists to talk a little bit about daily life in their units. you've heard described their assignments, when they were in vietnam, generally what they did. but i think it is important to talk a little bit more about what the actual daily life in
those units was like. and so i will start with liz and -- >> i was hoping you would do him first. >> no, i'm doing you first. >> let me tell you, there was no regulation on daily life. it depended on what happened in the field. how many body bags did you get. how many helicopters came in. and living was hell. excuse me for saying that word, but that is what it was. the temperature was hot. and as those troops came in, how do you come to grips with 150 body bags in one day? i had two stations in vietnam.
koochi, which you know, and the tunnels. the little guys got to do the tunnels. because the big guys couldn't get through the hole. but the real thing about the tunnels were the spiders at the end of the tunnel. and as those -- we got them, and there was no psychiatric service to help them. there cannot possibly be anything worse than a spider on your face. part of the things that we have to deal with in war are supplies. there were days that we thought nothing was ever going to come. how do you run out of
ammunition, blood transfusions, and water in a war zone? day after day, you dealt with it. don't let me talk too long. because i love to talk. i ain't going to lie to you. because you don't see many women who know about war. and i did koochi, which you know is the tunnels, and plaku, which took the first bomb of the tet offensive. and i tell my friends, don't ever call me at night. because the first rounds came in at night. and there was nothing to do.
and i knew that the phone was going to ring. and i was going to have to go. and the chief nurse calls and she says, captain allen, and i says, yes. i said what do you need me to do? she said, you have to go to the unit. and the unit was further than this wall and that wall. and i said, is somebody going to go with me? and she said, captain allen, i'm so sorry, you have to go alone. and as i opened the door, the two nurses that were there with them, the guys were on the floor because they were bringing them in. you could never imagine the carnage of that kind of war. and i say that to you because it is not something that i talk about. how in the hell can you deal
with 40 young men, some with no legs, some with no arms, some with their chest open, and you have nothing to give them but love. and i'm going to pass. >> you were in the medical side of things as well. or had a pretty good view of that. maybe you could extend this view of what liz has said. >> absolutely. when i think about it, i think of helicopters and -- i think of body bags and i think of guard duty. i think of my first flight to the division and we supported the first -- the 196 was shully fubbi and division four. i think it is important to talk about the mission and that mission was very simple. we had a war to fight and there was a war that was -- there were
no really front lines. i thought that everything was a front line. from the pulling of guard duty at night to taking the rounds from them at night also. so i think that when you think about the faces and you think about what you've done, you think about how do you get a person from the battlefield, if you will, to an aid station or to a hospital as quickly as possible. and i think america cut that down from korea to vietnam. i think it was like ten minutes or so. i think about the kind of injuries in vietnam that were traumatic amputations. when i say that, i mean not only legs but also arms. and i think that the idea in terms of the daily life is to get through and make it to the next day. we all had a saying about, i can't wait until i go back to, quote, the world.
so getting through the daily life -- and remember, we didn't have the whole idea of cell phones and we didn't have skype. we maybe had mail call twice a week. so it was -- it was very, very isola isolat isolated. but what held me together was understanding i was part of a tradition that went back to the revolutionary war and i think i belong to a great fraternity of soldiers who served. and i think when you look and think about the daily life, which i haven't talked about since i left vietnam, it is about service, it is about putting up with just the contingencies of war which in my case is the whole idea of helicopters and blades. and we also did metcalf for the vietnamese people. and so that is what i think about. >> and isaac, you had two tours. so a variety of experiences and a variety of context.
>> well, may daily life was different from the first tour to the second tour. second tour, of course, i was a prisoner of war. first tour was combat missions and combat patrols and recognizance of the hopy min trail. but the second tour when i was captured i would try to find ways to mess with the enemy even though i was a prisoner of war. i became the camp scamp because i was always doing crazy things. for example, i broke the rice mill and they found out it was me but it wasn't about the mill that they had there. and i got pretty tire some. and the other thing about daily life is just really trying to stay alive and survive, try to beat the odds. we had -- we were affected by
the jungle bourne diseases. i had malaria, hepatitis and mary berry and a big strong case of disin terri. >> oh, yes. >> we were just trying to survive in our camp. i always kept my mind very open and chelled a plan to escape -- developed a plan to escape and finally escaped. >> ken, i know you were a p.o.w. for a period of time. >> i did two tours also. similar to ike. that the military can do its best to train you. but in the end result, it is not like ojt. when i landed at cameron bay and got off that airplane, it was so hot and dry and cameron bay is a beautiful place in vietnam. and then eventually flew down to kuchi and was there for a couple of weeks while i was in
processing. and i went to vietnam, i'm a military brat, which means that my dad was in the military and i went into the military afterwards. and we all know how controversial the war was. literally divided this country. and but i felt as -- as an american citizen, it is my duty, when uncle sam calls, you serve. irregardless of what the conflict is. and a lot of people chose to run off to other countries, president carter let these guys back in, unfortunately. but i went because duty called and duty served. and so on my first tour of duty i was a sniper. and we would go out in five to seven men teams -- and this is a war, too, remember, number one, never declared by congress. we fought it with one hand tied behind our back. for example, we weren't supposed to be in cambodia. we were in cambodia. >> all of the time. >> the first unit i was with had
just come back after a six month tour of duty from cambodia. and all they did, all we did is delay the inevitable. but when we go out in the five to seven man teams and sit up in the jungle environment and we never fought a war in our lives so this is a new experience. so when you are sitting there and waiting for the enemy because there is intelligence that the enemy is moving through this area and then -- and i tell school kids this. killing is never right. but i was military trained and government-issued, to do a job and i did it pretty good. but when you sit there and you see the enemy crossing a path and you squeeze that trigger, and you see them drop, that really sets a tone for the rest of your duty. and after a while, it just became natural. and then so i said, i like this military stuff so well, i'm going to extend and come back.
and i had to come home for 30 days. and then all i had to do was another seven months of tour and then i would get out of the military five months early. my second tour was with military assistance command vietnam stationed out of lock nen which is 75 miles north of siagon. and so six days before my discharge, my camp of four americans and south vietnamese soldiers got hit with 30,000 soldiers. this was 1972. they had the goal then, during the spring offensive of '72, to go to siagon like they did in 1968. we just happened to be in their way. but we held that camp for three days before driving russian tanks and they literally overran the camp. and i lost two men of my five-man team. and we went and -- wouldn't let the helicopters land because it was just too hot. so we went into hiding. they found us the next day and
started pouring gasoline on the bush that we were in and you smell gasoline and molotov cocktail and so we exited and ike and i or maybe a couple of people in this whole program that fought against the enemy and lived with the enemy. so we have -- and i'm not saying this boastfully, i say it very humbly, a very unique experience. and we learned what communism is all about. from the enemy's perspective. so it literally changed my life because i went to vietnam because i was supposed to. but what literally changed my mind and even to this day, i was agnostic when i went. and on that second day of the three-day battle, when i realized and i could remember this day -- that day as i'm sitting here today, and i started praying. and we've all heard the adage, there is no atheist in box holes, battlefield conversions,
ladies and gentlemen, you were looking at them. because there was nothing i could physically do to get out there and you just start praying. >> you raise a very interesting question that might be a good thing for us to explore a little bit. i, too, was with the vietnamese, i was an adviser to a regional infantry force in the macon delta so i was with the vietnamese and i was with a advisory team but it was a small team and the interactions with the vietnamese were ubiquitous and daily and they were constant. i went to training at ft. bragg, learned some language, some is other things, having to do with vietnamese culture, but i have to say, when i got there i didn't feel very well prepared for what i found. and i wonder how you all felt about that in terms of your own activities. did you feel well-trained and ready for what you saw or were there things that surprised you from the meant -- fundamentally
and made your experiences much difference from what you expected? liz? >> the real deal is you can't see here what you saw there. one of the things that was the most difficult for me was how do you handle an 18-year-old with no legs and no arms. how do you handle that? and that is a one-shot wound. and it always happens on tanks. because they sit with their arms down. and as the missile hits this side, it goes and takes off both arms and both legs.
and remember, this is an 18-year-old with no arms and no legs. and the one thing that -- because i'm going to get to talk again, trust me. [ laughter ] but when i look at what happened here, because i have to tell you, i had two brothers in vietnam at the same time, the government didn't know and they weren't willing to give me up. my grandmother almost lost it. she has three grandchildren -- my grandmother raised us, in war at the same time. and that was a very difficult place for her. the other thing, and i am going to bring race into the issue, you know when a young male, whether he is black or white, gets into trouble, they offer them the military rather than
prison. and so here he comes, 18 years old and gets assigned to the wolf hounds, or he gets assigned to an outpost area where they sit in that boiling sun all day. and you know the movie -- what was that movie about vietnam. >> there were lots of movies. >> the one -- the one that really got to me, where they carried everybody off in the little bitty white bags and stuff. it didn't happen like that. because the plane would come in, and they would throw off all of the body bags, because they have to go pick up some more. we actually -- america, with as much money, as much skill, and
as much stuff as we have, we ran out of bandages, we ran out of water, we ran out of medicine. some slept on the floor. and i always used to think, if you all would quick that damn marching and get something done so we could do something that we need to do, because all of those people -- all of those guys belonged to somebody before they came and there was nothing we could do about that. and i'm going to talk about tet. because it was our guys in the north that knew about tet. the south did not know about tet. and when the first rounds came
in, we did not know what to do. we did not have the supplies to handle that. and being as i had the surgical units, when you see that much carnage and no way to stop it and you look at it every day, every night, you look at it, and it makes sleep real difficult, for people like me. and this is the first time i've -- i understand thursday the first time they've asked a female who was in nam on the front line to have something to say. because we act like -- it didn't happen. [ applause ]
>> let me say one more little thing. because you need -- when i came back, an adult came up to me and said, can i ask you a question. and i said sure, what. and she said, well they really shooting real bullets? and i thought -- and what did you do during the war? >> john, were there things that surprised you that you didn't feel prepared for that came to you as a kind of -- out of the blue? >> well i don't think there is any way to prepare for war. i think that the training that we went through was what most soldiers are going through, that is we were fighting an enemy and we were there to kill the enemy. and i think that training meant that whether it was -- whatever war, you don't see them as people. you have to have a renegotiation in the training of i'm on my way to vietnam, i'm on my way to kill a charlie con.
and i think that the training is almost -- well, like my colleague here, it becomes second nature. and i think what we did well was to train, in terms of -- on the weapons side, but it was a different kind of war that we had -- that we had fought over the year, that was different than world war ii and plus we had the rotation that we went there as individuals rather than as units. so if you divide the training into the psychology part, you are a soldier and you are an idealist, too. but not ask why, but to do or die. and then you add the training of what you need to do, and whether it is in my case, learning how to do bandages or learning how to do guard duty or learning how to go on med cap or learning how to -- take people in and out of a helicopter, and i think that became -- so i think that in terms of the preparation, i
think that the american soldiers did extremely well. i think that we had problems back at home with the demonstrators and the congress. so i think that if you look at what we were trained for -- because i think we wanted -- we won every battle. >> you think we did. >> but the training itself was good. but that is -- there is absolutely no way no train for being a prisoner of war. there is no way to train for all of the mass kinds of destruction that you see. whether it is standing there and watching a beautiful field and when the marine -- when the marine pilots do their jobs in the f-4s, it is just all there. so i think that -- one of the training that we went through was understanding that although you were fighting the vietnamese, we had to be kind to the vietnamese people because it was that kind of war. and that training for me -- i would go to villages, and i would engage the vietnamese
people but i was always aware that everybody was the enemy. because as liz and i were talking in the green room, it was the kids that would also blow you up. so i think that is important. so the training was good for what we knew. but i think that we have learned more about that kind of warfare. >> ike, what surprised you? what was outside of your expectations. >> i came from a different outfit from these guys, but i was in special forces. and we do some extensive area studies before we go into whatever country we're going to go. to include survival language, study of the terrain an the mountains and the flow of the current on the rivers, which way they are headed. who we are going to see and who we are going to meet and what they like and what they don't like and so forth. so we do this for about six months before we deploy. >> right. >> so our special forces teams are well prepared unless they -- it changes en route out there
but most of the time it will land and go ahead with the mission to our designated areas. we had the -- the problems with the mountain yards was that everything that we taught those people, we had to go to the -- to the interpreter and then that interpreter was go to the french and the french would go into their lingo, their dialect. and so when we trained -- for example, camp defenses, you are talking to an english to a guy that speaks vietnamese and english and so forth down the line. well a lot of that stuff gets lost in the translation. >> yeah. >> but i think that we were very well prepared to do our job and our missions. and some of these other units, i later learned, thought that they were going into country and find some little oriental guy with a third world class weapon, and they were probably thinking
about the vietcong or the vc. but you can't infiltrate the north from the south, they all look alike. i kind of it had a little bit closer and i got in -- into kind of tight because of the color of my skin. see those guys would pull up their arm and put their arm against me and kind of say, we're the same-same. we're kind of like buddies. but we were well trained to encounter the mission that we were in. but in reality, the north vietnamese soldiers were the best fighting soldiers -- and in this entire world, i could vouch for that. and they had hunger for victory. because in the long run up north they had told them, hopy min's dream is to unite north and south vietnam and his staff was told that way so when hochi
died, they promised themself until the last man stand tlg was killed that they would reunify the country. and so they did and they fought very hard. compared to the soldiers in the south, they were nothing. these kids were trained to drop their guns and run. leaving us there, the special forces guys, to defend themselves against an enemy that was very well-trained. and it happened in a lot of in stances. we talk about the tanks. when i came back, i was given some good intelligence because i was a first prisoner of war to come back and really explain to them what i had found out -- i had realistic and truthful intelligence. and i told them about the tanks. and the little kid from the mi said how do you know if they aren't ours. what kind of fool are you?
you could hear a tank, it would have been long gone into cambodia. but in way, in my debriefing i told them that they had armor, bill prague, another special forces soldier was along the way and when the tanks hit long vay, they knocked out the three russian tanks and down the road, bill said, you know what, i read your report and thank you for the intel, you know. nobody was prepared to fight them tanks. but when the tanks came over, they had old 57s and the mines to rappel the tank attack. so they come up smelling like a rose. >> so ken, what surprised you? what was outside of your expectations that you had to deal with. >> you stop and think about vietnam, the location. 10,000 miles away from the united states of america. that, until the war started, no one had ever heard of. we weren't the first there. >> right. >> that is right. >> if you look at history, they
defeated the french. gengis khan. so time was on their side. they figured they could out-wait us, if you will. how many lives are we willing to spend in a futile effort, as the end result. but i could remember going through villages and keeping in mind some of you maybe that weren't in vietnam, $400 a year is all they lived off of. and they are living on dirt floors, grass huts, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, just hard-working, dedicated people. all of the local south vietnamese people wanted is just to exist. and they got caught in the cross hairs. and you see kids that the vietcong had shot and wounded, but they wanted to hang out with us. because they didn't like the nva or the vietcong. and as ike said, i could always tell the difference between the
nva and the vietcong. the nva wore uniforms an the vietcong didn't. they were the farmers by day and fighters at night. and so when we got to prison camp in cambodia, deep in the jungles and i was put in a five by six tiger cage and 10 foot chain locked on my ankles and with 17 shrapnel wounds and the first time i was interviewed, keep in mind, there is five tiger cages and a guard stand with a kid probably about 14 or 15, 16 years of age with an ak-47 and so the guy that took care of us spoke english fairly well. and he came and took me and we went -- a long story short and i went inside for an hour and a half sitting on a tree stump six inches off the ground and this guy is sitting at a boom bowe table and a chair and generally speaking the south vietnamese are short in stature so as soon as he sat down, i immediately
figured out he has superior position because i have to look up at him. so over the next hour and a half during the first session, they go well we wish you could go home and there is a war going on and yada, yada, yada. and so what unit are you with. so you start making up stuff. but it was enough for him to say, it wasn't true or accurate. he said, well is it with this unit. this guy is speaking -- english better than most americans. and so we do this -- i call this a little dance because i try to put a positive on a negative situation. i knew some day i was coming home. i didn't know when. but i made the mental decision, i'm going to beat this thing. i don't know how long, but i will go home. so i live every day -- every day is a great day. if you think you have a bad day, let me tell you one day as a p.o.w. -- i say that humbly. but after we finished this and
he asked me about some propaganda material about some battles that had i been in. and i said i have to disagree with you on this one particular battle. you guys didn't win. he looks -- leans forward and looks at me with all seriousness, oh, no, you have been misled by that propaganda machine we have in this country called the free press. now i'm 25 and i'm kind of cocky but in no position to be cocky in that environment and i think to myself, you have got to be kidding me. and that is when it really sunk in. because they reiterated it later on. even if something is false, the doctrine, if you repeat it a thousand and one times, it becomes true. and i said to myself, wow. so as a mission before, fighting with them and living with them and seeing their perspective and knowing that maybe some day we'll go home, not sure when.
fortunately, like ike or like ike, he was forced to escape. i couldn't figure out how to get out therefore and get off the chain and get out of the camp with stakes on the inside and it was late in the war, president nixon was taking 10,000 troops out a month and we had about 180,000 troops in 1972. so we said we're going to give it a year and see if it works out and then try and anticipate escape. >> john, and you ken have both raised the important question of what we heard and knew about what was happening in the united states and how that affected daily experience. i think that would be a good thing to skplaexplore. and i would remind everybody, as somebody has already said, there was no television, there was no regular contact, letters took about a week. there were no televisiwelve cal telephone calls. there was vietnam radio, made
famous in the movie "good morning vietnam." and most of the information came slowly and it is difficult to know immediately what was happening at home. but we did hear ultimately about everything that was going on. and there was a lot going on. at least when i was there in 1968-69. the anti-war movement was really becoming very powerful. and so we heard more and more things about what was happening in the united states. and then of course it had an affect on us. i wonder how it affected each of you. liz, if you could talk about how that news to the -- to the degree you had news, how that affected your daily life? >> i -- i want to answer that question intelligently. we didn't get no daily news. what daily news? the only kind of news we had was about the people marching over here. >> that is what i mean. >> oh, yeah, we heard that all of the time. and i'm being a lady so i'm not
going to cuss today. i'm going to hold that back, you know what i'm saying. we didn't get any of that kind o of stuff. there was some radio stuff that we got that we knew what music was going on in the states. but there seemed to be no way to get any information back to the states so that they could get off their duff and do something that was helpful. that does make sense? so we didn't really get that much radio, especially because i was always out in the field. i didn't want to go to saigon. they wanted me to go to saigon to work. i told them i could stay at home and do this. and so radios didn't work. so we didn't get any of that kind of stuff. most of the stuff that i heard
because i have to tell you i had two brothers also in the war at the same time so there were three of us in the war at the same time. really wore my grandmother down. but they were navy, and i was army. and so we just didn't get that kind of thing. and there wasn't the kind of wiring in the heavy war zones that would allow radio and that kind of stuff to come through. so we didn't know much until the very, very end about what was going on here. and i have to tell you, i was sort of glad we didn't get to hear it because when you've got 30 guys with their bellies open, butts broken, eyes blinded, i don't want to hear anything about that mess, okay?
because i really did have something to do. does that make sense s? >> oh, yeah. >> i had something to do besides stand around and talk about what y'all wasn't going to do. because the 25th infantry was a mighty infant grioup. it really was. and we had special forces. the 25th. and they were always in battle. i don't think there was one day that i was there that they were not in battle. but my grandmother would let me know what they were saying here. and what i understood was saying here didn't have a damn thing to do with what was going on in nam. i used ed td to think, if i cot get in front of that television and send you us some supplies, i
sure would be thrgful. >> john, what about you? what was your -- what did you hear and how -- >> of course you're not too concerned about debating that, but certainly we had the stars and stripes and the reality came hi was in seattle and i got the briefing. and the briefing was, take off your uniform and watch out from the hippies, a different kind of situation. i think that the war divided itself and it also divided itself between gis who thought that people should serve and then there were people who were protesting and going to canada. in my school there were lots of protests against the war. i went straight from the military to northwestern university to graduate school, and i wore my jacket because it was cold. and i think that the idea of serving in vietnam always put in the forefront. i mean, i have it on my resume
you now. my faifrpt sto my favorite is i was a veteran. the veterans called me and asked, how could a decorated vietnam vet be a professor at the university of texas. paul waldorf a good friend of mine is also a decorated veteran. but i think that i really didn't begin to think about it because when you're there you're thinking about your duty. but i tell you when you got home you can could see a different kind of vision. >> but it wasn't too disruptive when you were there. >> no. i think personally about people who did not want to serve. and i thought from an academic point of view i thought that the country was changing. you know, you go back to the revolutionary war you had the same kind of dynamics at a different level. you know, the resentment is that my heroes are the people that i served with and not the people who demonstrated. but that's okay. that's my personal kind of
resentment. i know it's a free country and you can do what you want to do. but in terms of what i've done and what i did, my heroes are the people who did not come home and the people who were maimed an the people who were traumatized rather than the people who refused to fight for america. and i also had reservations about president carter allowing people to come back for citizenship. but i think that kind of attitude is indicative when you begin to cut through the layers of what the experience of vietnam was. but i think that the reality of what happened in the war and the reality of all the demonstrations that took place, i think it's a historical question as to what went on. you know, i went to houston to give a talk in southwest houston and i was pleased with the -- in the vietnamese community of an american soldier. soy think that it didn't affect me there because i was -- solidarity with the troops.
it certainly was not with the protesters. >> ike, how about you? were you aware of what was happening? >> again, i think we had the edge over the conventional units because we used morse code. with each one of our teams has a communicator who is an expert in morse code and he would get the message. i'll give you a good example. when president kennedy was assassinated, minutes after he was shot we knew about it. the message came in. he deciphered it. and he read it to the captain, said, you know, president kennedy has been assassinated, shot in dallas. more to follow. when he passes away in the hospital, we get the message that he's gone. but conversely, the enemy had very good communication. they had access to "the washington post" and times" and it hurt me real bad because i had bs'd my way into telling
them when they were interrogating me that i was just a supply man. all i do is give uniforms and whenever they need boots i give them boots and all this stuff. so i kind of sold them on that story. i said, i think i got it over on these guys, you know. one day they called me in and it was like, you're sit ong a little stump like that. that guy is way up there. he said, you've been telling us that all you did, that you were a supply man, that you give them boots and yooufrm and all this stuff. i said, yes so he picks up a copy of "time" magazine and he says, you know, are you familiar with this publication? i said, yes, "time" magazine, sir. news magazine. he said -- he threw it at me and he said, turn to page 19. page 19. there was a picture of my camp burning right after the attack, and on the bottom caption in that photo it said for sergeant
first class was teaching antiguerilla warfare. i didn't know how to respond but only one thing i said, you know. i said, well, you can't believe everything you read. and he said, now we really want to talk. >> i bet they did. >> and i vented to them, i said, remember when the first days when i was here with you guys, remember? i told you that i had seen a bus that was exploded by a mine that you guys blew up the bus with civilians in it? about five miles south of -- i read that in the saigon paper. and he told me, he said, well, you know, you americans are so ignorant. it's just propaganda. you know ushgs not supposed to believe everything you read. so that was my second comeback.
remember you told me not to believe everything you read. and they left me alone. >> ken, i wonder if you could talk a little bit about what you were hearing and did it alter your experience? did it influence your experience? >> you know, like a lot of these folks and people that served in vietnam, you know, you have the stars and stripes back in base camp. when i was in prison camp my parent s wrote me letters. i wrote a couple much letters. they give you a limb 5 by 7 piece of paper with five lines on it. what are you going to say? i'm deep in the jungles of cambodia, things aren't going real well. the food could be better, but i understand. i knew those letters were never going to leave. every afternoon -- again, i tried to put a positive on a negative situation because number one i was glad to be alive. every afternoon after siesta time they would come back and unlock the cages. now, i had a 10-foot chain afternoon one of my aink eldz. it never went off unless i went
to the bathroom or to bathe every ten days. i call had him my little friend to be nice. he would come in and play this transitor radio, the voice of vietnam, straight from hanoi. of course it wasn't biased or anything. i can remember very clearly because this was during '72 when you had the presidential elections going on. you had a guy named richard nixon and george mcgovern. going back to what i said earlier, they distort as ike said the truth because the satellite, this young lady from hanoi said, george mcgovern was going to win the '72 election. i think maybe he carriy eied th states, one of them wasn't even his own. but it walked a lot about the protestersor, the anti-american sentiment. but you had to kind of filter that stuff out. even though and i'm gro going to be nice you had a guy on the program the other morning that
was married to a famous actress. i have a different word thai will not share in public for that individual. she -- tom hayden as jane fonda did not help our cause. in fact, they played jane's recorded message for 30 days. and i will never forget when she ended her transmitting, talking about, these are poor innocent people. there were pows in north vietnam as you already know that were tortured that refused to meet with her. she never came down to south vietnam, cambodiaor, or whatever. but her ending statement was and ramsay clark who i talked to, you know, your mother lucy and linda, who was embarrassed that the attorney general under your dad went over there. but i go to bed crying every night thinking of the damage we have done to these poor innocent
people. i said, really? i know she's apologized. i'll leave it at that. but, you know, we talk about vietnam veterans being recognized today because we didn't start the war. we served. each and every one here today and those around the world that wore the uniform during that time period should be applauded, should be saluted, and thanked for your service because -- [ applause ] -- if you were drafted, you went. i volunteered because i felt it was my responsibility and duty. but i tell you what, lessons learned and i talked to a guy last night with the san antonio paper lessons learned going forward i think we're witnessing that today to a certain degree. i don't necessarily agree with what's going on militarily, but the men and women serving today and 12% to 15% serving today are females which i think is great and wonderful.
number two, they all volunteer. there's no draft. vees name veterans, older veterans and even the public in general are thanking these young men and women when they come through airports or they're in a restaurant in their uniform. i think we've come a long way and hopefully we can take some of those lessons forward besides let's not get into something that the country is not fully committed to. there's no vital interest in the united states. let's not play political politics with it. let's not find with hand tied behind our back and let's go in and win it immediately. [ applause ] >> i think you're right. we are doing a lot better. >> i think the other part -- >> she get s one minute. >> we've only got a couple left. >> i'll only take one because i want to piggyback on what you
have to say. and that is, this country here just got so flared up when a kid was killed, vietnamese kid was killed. but we never said a word when the vietnamese kid would hold up a coke can to a u.s. soldier, and that can was a bomb. and we got them all the time. they would throw those coke cans. and to this day, vietnam vets who were in prison -- and i do a lot of work with prisons -- the one thing you cannot do is hand
them a coke can aand say, here. because it pulls back that memory of that kid. but we could get all pissed off about a u.s. guy killing a vietnamese kid but we never said a word when the vietnamese kids threw those bombs in the tops of those apcs and tanks and guys riding on the sides of the trucks. and we tried really hard to take care of those kids, but those kids blew up a lot of u.s. troops. and we have to think about what
we think about kids because kids do what their parents tell them to do. and that is not always what kids do that you know about. and i have taken care of a lot of gis who were wounded, who lost their legs, who were blind from a coke can. and i still have trouble with coke. >> thank you. i'm going to take the moderator's prog tifr and tiff prerogative and have the last word because we're very close to the end. i think surely one of the very difficult things about the experience of being there was that even people there in the field executing their mission in the best possible way they could and with great integrity and bravery had very divided feelings about what they were doing. some people were very
supportive. some people were in the middle. some people weren't so supportive. one of the complexities of the legacy of this war i think is that even among the people who fought it, there was hugely divided sentiment about the experience, what it meant, what it was for, its purpose. and going back to what ken said, i think that for me coming away from that the most important lesson is that we have to make sure that as a people and a country we understand what the ultimate meaning of our engagement is because, without that certainty, the price is too high. and the pain is too great. and so if there's one thing i think probably we all agree on is veterans of that conflict, is that going forward we have to make sure that that's where we find ourselves when we're making these decisions. i want you to join me in
activities. the senate select committee to study governmental operations held hearings on intelligence activities by the cia, fbi, irs, and nsa. that's at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. >> american history tv on c-span3. saturday night at 10:00 eastern on "real america" -- >> more than 110,000 cubans flee cuba. they come the 140 kilometers from the port of mario to key west, florida, in nearly 2,000 boats. why did they come? why are there so many? >> during the spring through fall of 1980, approximately 125,000 cuban refugees arrived in florida from the port of mario, cuba. hear interviews these new arrivals to america and find out why they left. sunday morning at 10:00 on road to the white house rewind, the 1992 democratic and republican
conventio conventions. bill clinton saeps his party's presidential nomination in new york city. >> in the naix the hardworking americans who make up our forgotten middle class, i proudly accept your nomination for president of the united states. >> and incumbent president george h.w. bush accept his party's nomination in houston. >> and i am proud to receive and i'm honored to accept your nomination for president of the united states. >> at 4:35, architectural historian barry lewis on the creation and evolution of new york city's greenwich village. >> when the l opened on sixth avenue it basically visually gave us what we already understood. east of sixth avenue was washington square. west of sixth avenue was the lower west side. nobody ever crossed that line. now, the people from west of sixth avenue might cross the line to work as a servant in