tv Vietnam War from the Front Lines CSPAN June 1, 2016 11:38pm-12:47am EDT
haven't learned lessons. >> what bill is talking about is inside the military. it's a -- >> right. >> as he said, his life depends on it. >> very important distinction. i can't resist asking given this contrast, how well do we do as a society in learning from history? >> i don't think we do very well at all. [ laughter ] there's two things about history. first, it's work. i should have read it earlier. i just finished reading the -- sherman's memoirs. it's -- the hardest things to understand about earlier when i was saying vietnam's not a syndrome, history can cause us to look in the mirror and say,
2k3w god, did we do that? citizens get all excited at the beginning, then all of a sudden, people are dying, killing each other, that's not 2k3w50good. then the support drops off. i hear ted cruz, we ought to bomb them. 2 ted, you're not going to bomb them. you're not going to do any fighting. you're too damn old. you might not have been any good when you were young. i don't know. [ applause ] and some of it is a little bit connected what chuck was saying because we still tend to over dramatize and clean it up. it's not all bad to do that. but as sit accecitizens, i thin studying history is really hard. the historians have enabled us to understand lots of things
that we didn't know before which can be painful as well. but it's the difficulty. when you say, oh, god, is that who we were? the hardest thing is to say we're going to go on. that's why i emphasize the proudest thing i did in the united states senate, i participated in the peace agreement in come body ya aambo >> oh, sure. >> and it's working. we're making peace. and i repeat it, peace is hard. you know, you got to make decisions that -- group decisions. you never get perfection in those moments and you're always going to find some wind bag on the sidelines who's going to be criticizing you. [ laughter ] >> i think you said that perfectly. i don't think there's anything i can add to it. [ laughter ] >> who would dare speak after it. >> listen, we are running short
on time. but let me wrap things up with a very straightforward and quick question. is there a lesson of the vietnam war that we haven't, whether or not here or perhaps other sessions, have not hit upon that you would like to put on the table of huge consequence or potentially of minute consequence? >> one very quick one is instead of having individual rotation, we have unit rotation. and i have long thought that individual rotation was counterproductive. if you can get unit rotations, people come in ready to work and carry out their mission together. if you have -- you constantly got a couple brand-new people you're trying to familiarize with the whole situation and a couple people that are short-timers counting down the
days, it undermines morale and makes it more difficult for the commander. if there's any big lesson learned between vietnam and the more recent experience, i would say it's unit rotation, not individual rotation. >> which is exactly again to the -- senator robb's point. we learned that lesson from vietnam. again, it's hard to do that, but it is a lesson the army did have these issues in vietnam with individual rotations. i know again when iraq started, that was one of the very first decisions going back to this because of that problem. i guess i would offer, something that was raised last night, both gentlemen here have talked about it today. the complexity of any war. and you have to be careful about taking the wrong lessons away from the war. sometimes, we allow historians to interprterinterpret what the the archives and draw those
lessons. those lessons become the lessons of our history. right, wrong or indifferent, that's what happens sometimes. you need to have somebody who does that. i don't want to dismiss that, but these things are very, very complex. that's why i think something like the vietnam war summit here is is important to have the opportunity to hear both sides of the story and then kind of we need to collectively or individually make our own judgments about what was right and what was wrong. >> look, i think here history is a very good guide. i speak to -- on behalf and to civilia civilians. i think of two great examples. neither of them were connected to the vietnam war. the first is gandhi who insisted we're going to have a multi-religious nation. he died because of it.
the more eloquent one, said any fool can make peace of a friend. it's making peace with an enemy that's hard. he did. he was at war with yasser arafat and he died because of it. making peace is hard because you get criticized. people say you're weak. in my own view, real men do diplomacy as well. [ applause ] >> well, i think one thing that has become clear over the last three days is that the vietnam war entails an infinite number of questions and -- an unending amount of controversy. the best we can hope for is to have the debate at a higher level of sophistication and knowledge. these three gentlemen have helped us think about these very weighty matters on a higher
plane, so thank you very much. thank you. [ applause ] >> ladies and gentlemen, director of the lbj presidential library. ladies and gentlemen, we conclude the vietnam war summit today with a poem written by first lieutenant timothy schlink, second battalion first infantry, 196th light infantry brigade. it was based from september 1966 to june 1967. after losing his best friend in battle, he wrote this poem to his father while trying to express his feelings.
and the poem is called "i must go on." we fought together six months today, as i rolled other, there he lay. his eyes were open. his chest clenched tight. the look of death, a look of fright. i knew right then that he was dead and wondered why not me instead. his life was short, not many years. full of hope, yet full of fears. we talked and laughed of times gone by. and never thought that one would die. but here he lay, no breath of life, no thought of home or his young wife. i turn my head and looked away. i fought the words i could not say. he's dead. he's dead and gone, but i am here and must go on. i must go on.
this summit is dedicated to those americans who passed on in vietnam during the course of the war. those whose names are on the wall that heals outside of this very 3wi8d i very building. and those who went on from vietnam. may i ask all the veterans in the auditorium to stand and be recognized, please. [ applause ] >> thank you all for your service to this nation and thank you all for being here today. thank you. [ applause ]
♪ thursday, a discussion on combatting al qaeda and isis. the group gafta hosts a discussion with a political advisor via skype. we're live from the national press club at 8:30 a.m. eastern here on cspan3. thursday, american history tv on cspan3 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the church committee's final report on federal intelligence 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 cspan3. >> ativan -- vanityfair.com, th
headline, "how donald trump with eat hillary lunch." joining us on the phone from seattle, contributing writer t.a. frank. you outline three ways in which you say donald trump could soundly beat hillary clinton. which of the three in your mind is most compelling? >> the one that's most likely to work for him is the least sexy, you could say. it's simply demographics and share of voting blocs. the one that's most fun to think about is his relative freedom and relative i say to any other candidate that has occupied the head of the republican ticket for a long time. or a democratic ticket. >> you could go through a long list of issues that donald trump is facing moving into the
general election, the investigation into trump university, his outburst yesterday at the media in new york, it seems that at every turn, the rules just don't seem to apply to donald trump. why? >> well, we'll see now whether they apply. they didn't apply in the primaries because the very thing that he was doing which was appalling everyone was at heart what made him appealing to his fed up supporters in the republican party who felt that they needed to take a wrecking ball to the institution. however, people who are fed up with washington are not confined to the republican party. so there may be a bigger audience for him than we think. as we see from the latest polls in which he's tightening things up quite a bit. >> in your essay, you write that donald trump is a better politician, he doesn't seem like a nice guy, but he is gifted at connecting with voters and journalists. hillary clinton is not. can you explain? >> well, i think that when
donald trump starts a conversation about something, we all get talking about it. and when hillary clinton tries to start a conversation about it, it doesn't often succeed and often the conversation winds up about something she doesn't want us to talk about. it's hard to explain that other than to say that some people have a real political gift that you -- you can't really quantify, but certainly hillary clinton's husband has it and donald trump seems to have it for some reason. and that's just the luck of the year. >> so how does her campaign based in brooklyn, new york, respond to donald trump in which has so far been a very unconventional campaign? what do you think her strategy needs to be? >> it is very difficult to respond to someone as unpredictable and as unwilling
to play by normal etiquette as donald trump. in life in general, when someone is doing the wrong thing, it's hard to respond in an exact right way. i think that actually becoming a little more unguarded, it may be hillary clinton's best way to succeed. and also to give donald trump the rope to hang himself. he is often his own worst enemy. >> so much attention on the popular vote. but let's look at the electoral map. it favors the democrats in november, if you base it on previous election cycles. >> right. they have a clear majority. they come in with the electoral votes, a great advantage in the electoral college. however, it does not take a
large increase in the share of white voters for the entire elections that turn republican. that is an interesting thing that latest tools of election analysis and algorithms allow us to see than ever before. so trump's strategy -- what seems to be a strategy of maybe holding onto what non-white support the republican party already had and then building by a few percentage points among white voters, that could work in putting him over the top. >> donald trump has said he thinks he can wib in states like pennsylvania, wisconsin, florida, even california. how does he overcome that? >> right. well, he's not going to win california, i think. that -- that was very trumpy and
bluster there. he overcomes it mainly by being not quite so unfavorable as his opponent is. unfortunately for hillary clinton, she also has high unfavorable ratings. so it's really a less ugly contest in many ways. if he pushes them down a bit, he can still be quite competitive provided that she is unable to push hers down. >> we're still in a contested democratic primary. who has room for growth moving into conventions this summer in the fall campaign? they both have room for growth. but hillary clinton will benefit greatly from the -- from winning the nomination and putting the primaries behind her. at this time, when barack obama and hillary clinton were still struggling against each other, john mccain was polling several
points ahead of barack obama in hypothetical presidential matchups and we all know how that turned out. >> the story is available online at vanityfair.com. it's also available on "the hive." t.a. frank joining us from seattle with the headline, three ways in which donald trump could beat hillary clinton. thank you for being with us. >> thank you again. madam secretary, we proudly give 72 of our delegate votes to the next president of the united states -- [ applause ] ♪ [ cheers and applause ]
american history tv on cspan3, saturday night at 10:00 eastern on real america -- >> more than 110,000 cubans flee cuba. they come the 140 kilometers to key west, florida, in nearly 2,000 boats. why do 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 mariel cuba. find out why they left. sunday morning at 10:00, the 1992 testimodemocratic and repu conventions. >> in the name of the hard working americans who make up our forgotten middle class, i
producedly accept your nomination for president of the united states. >> and incumbent president jr george h.w bush accepts his party's nomination in houston. >> i'm proud to receive and honored to accept your nomination for president of the united states. >> at 4:45, barry lewis on the creation and evolution of new york city greenwich village. >> east of 6th avenue was august square, nobody ever crossed that line. now, the people from west of 6th avenue might cross the line to work as a servant in washington square. but believe me, the people in washington square never went on the other side of 6th avenue. >> on the presidency -- >> every time i look at
washington, it's unanimous. unanimously commander in chief, unanimously president of the constitutional convention. unanimously reelected president of the united states, unanimously appointed of all the armys raised or to be raised in the service of the united states. what a record. >> peter enriquez explores that even though washington was officially retired. 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.
>> announcer: ladies and 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 fe 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