tv American Artifacts American Artifacts - Remembering Vietnam CSPAN November 12, 2017 10:29am-11:00am EST
this concludes our ceremony, thank you for coming. [applause] >> the american war in vietnam raged 50 years ago. but967, it was lbj's wars consumed presidents from jfk to robert -- two florida. american tv looks aback that this divisive war with 48 hours of coverage and first-person accounts from vietnam war veterans and antiwar protesters. all is american history tv weekend, every weekend on c-span3. >> c-span where history unfolds the daily.
in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's public television and brought you today by your catalog -- by your stable -- by your cable or satellite provider. as amembering to vietnam national archives exhibit featuring the documents and artifacts organized into 12 episodes raging in southeast asia 50 years ago. up next, american artifacts, an interview with the archivist of the united states followed by a tour with curator alice kamps. this is just under half an hour. , what was thest reason for the vietnam exhibit? >> the commemoration of the anniversary of the war it self and national archives, the keeper of the country, commemorates high points, low points in our history with major
exhibits. this one was particularly important to me since i am a vietnam vet and i want to remember a war that is deal so controversial dishes that is still so controversial, we have rent -- that is still so controversial, we have records. have there ever been in expose before? it is safe to say that in the past the subject was avoided as it has been in most museums and missions across the country. it is recently that there's a level of comfort in telling stories. >> do you think that experience of the archives being avoided is reflective of how vietnam over the 50 years has been received? >> it is a subject that no one talked about. like it never happened. in a not often covered
k-12 history. history stops and world war ii and touches on korea but usually never gets to it. >> your exhibit, is the archives exhibit, breaks it down into a 12 chapter more episodes. tell as of the reasoning and what you hope people will learn as they go through the different stages. goalsis a big story that to the truman -- goes to the truman administration and even before. and putting that into perspective to give people chance to reflect on each period that we call in a the exhibit. there is a lot of information and a lot of kind of personal reflection on the issue as you go through the exhibit. i am convinced that people cannot do this in a quick 20
minute visit which is the average attention span of folks doing exhibits these days. it is an exhibit that people will have to come back to. >> what do you hope as people wrap up, what they take away? >> a better sense of what happened and that they feel challenged to answer questions themselves about what was the reason, what did we get out of this, what impact did it have on future conflicts, those kinds of questions. >> you told us you are a vietnam vet, what was that experience like? what did you learn from this exhibit that you did not know before? a corporal assigned to marine division and then aboard a ship. our information during that time , during my year in vietnam was
very limited. little information about what was going on in the conflict. me,this exhibit has, for field and some of the gaps of my own -- filled in some of the gaps of my own knowledge. >> what was the most unexpected thing you learned about putting this together? of mywas a confirmation assumption that's the national archives had records that could tell the story in a way that no other institution could tell the story. >> they exhibit it was curated by alice kamps and tell us about your curator. alice is a wonderfully creative, innovative historically perspective individual who i got to work with closely when i first visitd on a blockbuster
where we told the story of the government's role. she is a person who works closely with archivists who mind the records and then put them together creatively in a way that tell the story and she is done it again and this exhibit. >> we talk to our visitors before we planned the exhibit and asked them what do they want to know about the vietnam war? they said, why was the united states involved? we still have a basic questions and i hope by going through critical episodes, they will have a better understanding of what happened and why. is a warkamps, this that probably a lot of americans do not realize cover many presidents is. how many, exactly? startedarly involvement
with president truman during the french indochina war. our exhibit covers five different presidents. >> the first item we will see is a memo from franklin delano roosevelt. let us walk over. >> absolutely. prior and during the world war rolling then on. and they had colonized it and divided into three different sections. during world war ii, the japanese came in and pushed the french out eventually. fdr is talking to secretary of state about what he believes should happen to vietnam after world war ii. he opposes a french return to vietnam. it is quite clear in this memo theuse he says "friends -- people of indochina deserve better than that."
fdr passes away before the end of world war ii and when truman comes in, he says not feel as strongly about a french return to vietnam. given toograph was charlesuman by general de gaulle during the visit to washington, d.c. and during this visit truman told to he would not oppose a return to france. is 1940 fivegraph and does the u.s. have any interest in vietnam at this time? >> they are interested more in supporting france after world war ii as able work -- as a bullworth against communism. the feeling was we need to support friends and friends -- france and france felt like it needed to return to indochina as they called it and rule. >> this was early in the truman
administration. let us go to eisenhower administration. broken into 12 different chapters and we are seeing some of the highlights, obviously. how long did it take you to assemble all of this, archived documents and collect everything? >> it took over 2 years and i had a lot of help. i invited several, almost two dozen, prominent historians to suggest documents they thought were revealing about u.s. involvement in southeast asia. >> we moved to a document about a letter from president eisenhower. >> this is an important point in the story. it is 1954, and of the country of vietnam has been divided by the geneva accord into north and south. there's a communist government ruling in the north and president eisenhower believes that the loss of vietnam to
communism would be disastrous. he was to help this fledgling south vietnamese government established itself. the leader or emerging leader at that time was not president yet and would become president was a man named -- it is spelled with a "d." he was a catholic. there is a percentage of people, a minority, but the percentage of people in vietnam were catholic. he has strong nationalist credentials. eisenhower,r from what sort of says it does it give us about where the united states is in supporting vietnam? is there any indication that we are committing any sort of monetary support, military support? >> the document we have is a press release regarding the letter that president eisenhower sent. this is after vietnam had been
petitioned by the geneva. eisenhower felt very strongly that a losing vietnam to communism would be a disaster. he is in this letter pledging american support, significant monetary support at this time. this is a decision that says the united states on a course of involvement in vietnam for 20 years. >> this is 1954 and i want to move forward to early and president kennedy's administration and notes from a meeting. and we moved to the kennedy administration at the exhibit, episode three, kennedy doubles down. what does it mean? >> kennedy is interesting because he understood perhaps better than any other american president how difficult it would be to try to defeat the communists there.
he visited vietnam as a young man and as a senator is studied the area. but, he kind of paradoxically, he doubles down by dedicating a lot of u.s. support for vietnam both financially and military. he sent thousands of advisors to assist. the items in this part of the exhibit is a set of meeting those from a national security meeting on november 15, 1961. >> it was interesting at this national security council couldg, kennedy said he make a rather strong case against intervening in an area 10,000 miles away against 16,000 guerillas with a native army were millions have been spent with a no success. he is arguing against advisors who are pushing him to put interests. ucs written guerrilla war,
two-front war and isobutyl means north vietnam and south vietnam where the insurgency is starting to pick up. >> kennedy was getting advice from a number of military officials, from robert mcnamara, was he getting conflicting advice? >> i am not sure he was getting conflict and advice but his own knowledge of and him and the difficulty the french had are what i think is having him push back against the advice>>. president kennedy's advisers, mcnamara and a mac well -- and maxwell, a month before he would this pointated, at in his administration, as he is getting ready for election, what is his thinking on vietnam and the status and the effort? i think he felt the united
states needed a win in the war against communism. there had been the bay of pigs defeat at the direction of the berlin wall. he said he thought the venom was the place for the united states could take a stand. president kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and lyndon b. johnson takes over. we will move to the johnson administration. he says the state and part of that was set before he was reelected in 1964 with the golf of time and incident. you will show was a document maddux.g u.s. is -- uss maddox. >> this is the second attack and there was one on august the second and it is the august 4 that this cable refers to. uss maddoxet of the
which was at the ship, the american ship, that was believed to have been under torpedo attack by the north vietnamese. in is the first cable, he said there were under continuous torpedo attack. the second cable, he is expressing doubt about that and said the weather effects on radar and overeager sonar men may have accounted for many reports. that is secretary robert mcnamara did not report the captain's doubts to the president. the president and others believe there had been a second attack and it was after the second attack that the resolution was passed which gave president johnson almost unlimited war powers. >> your exhibit has the actual fugulf ofthe golf of --
tonkin, was at this unanimously accepted by congress? >> it was accepted almost unanimously. there were 2 who voted against ris and senator gruening. we have the tally sheet. >> the u.s. senate uses a similar tally sheet, the actual tally sheet from the vote on the resolution and in the center, a picture of president johnson signing the resolution in the 1964.oom on august 10, assembling the exhibits, any reason why the president made such a prominent display of signing their resolution? i don't really know the answer to that question. when you aret
putting the country on a war footing, you would certainly want the entire country to the effort, i didn't want to point out that it is interesting that even though it appeared to be a near unanimous passage of this bill, only 2 voted against it in the senate and it was unanimous in the house. there were senators in congress, people who harbored serious doubts about the wisdom of going to war with vietnam. ultimately, he would send united states troops to vietnam in march of 1965. this did open the door for that. this is another major turning point. >> the golf token resolution, the president signs it to send more troops in the coming years
and years and let us take a look at the next episode. america goes to war. we will look at a couple of documents here. this is what you have described as the fork in the road, the memo from george bundy. he?was > george bundy was one of> president johnson's, probably his most important advisor, national security adviser. johnson had inherited bold george bundy and robert mcnamara from the kennedy administration and decided to keep them on. e of theirhaps in aw intelligence and education and they had a very, very strong opinion, which they communicated to president johnson. to give you a little bit of background of what is going on at this time, it is january
1965, johnson has just been elected in his own right by a landslide. he had a huge victory. the situation in vietnam is deteriorating. 1963, just before president kennedy's assassination, president thiem was assassinated and there was a succession of rollers and south -- of rulers in south vietnam. the communist insurgency is building up and they are starting to win more. acyclic, bundy and mcnamara are saying, we're at a fork in the road. options.talks about 2 one of the options is to pursue a negotiated settlement, which they both a new adjustment was not going -- they both the new johnson was not going to go for or to fully commit the united states. >> part of the memo with george
bundy writes says you should know that -- the president is faced with this fourth in the road moment, what after 1965,rtly what does he do about troop levels? >> operation rolling thunder which is a result of airstrikes and when he did that, he send ground troops to guard the base. that opened the door to american ground troops coming in. >> we're talking early 90's to five? -- 1965? >> that it's right for your early march 1960 five when the first ground troops came in and we had over 400,000 troops. >> is the white house memo.
how long would typically these be in the archives? get the document about 30 years after the federal agencies that generated them are finished with them. these are confidential so they would have been in the johnson library quite a bit longer than that. >> in a case like this where they would been in a library, are those documents on loan or are some of them permanent here in the archives? >> the presidential libraries are part of the national archives, so they are national archive documents but live at the edge of the library. adjust the library have loaned them to us. -- the johnson library have loaned them to us. >> we will go to 1967. what is the mood of the country
regarding the war? >> the country is starting to protest. more and more people are joining the protest movement. they have been seeing scenes of the war on their television sets. this is the first war where they are getting a direct view of the combat and the destruction and people are very, very upset by it. >> in this exhibit, we see a couple of things. tell us about this letter. >> there are a series of letters from a couple whose son was killed in vietnam. they are really difficult to read as a mother of a son might well for my film that these letters from others that caused me to really kind of breakdown and feel what they must have been feeling.
in this letter, she is writing to president johnson and she has just buried her son. she is angry and she wants to know, what did he die for and why are you prosecuting this war? we also have a response letter from president johnson to the couple. and i find this also very poignant because i feel like you can see his struggle to find the right words in these crossed out and rewording of the letter. >> the issue of letters to soldiers are still a very current issue in 2017. was it difficult to select the best written letter or letters to represent this sort of issue? >> i think there was something in this photograph of russell, who has this beautiful, open, innocent smile that kind of
nixon's campaign promise which was what? >> many people believed and that nixon had a planning to end of on war and he campaigned bringing the war to an honorable and. >> tell us about this memo from 1968 before the election from hr hold them in. who was -- holamen? who was the? closest ly nixon's aide. in anna working keep on vietnam. his referring to johnson was engaged with vietnam, hoping to enter into peace talks. as of the same time, anna chennault, a campaign aide was speaking to the south vietnamese
andident about these talks people believed that if she was encouraging him to wait until after the election. these notes were brought to public attention by historian jack pharrell after a biography he published in 2017. we are seeing that documents are still a declassified and discovered by historians and we are 50 years later, we are learning new things about the war. >> how are his story is able to gain access to these new things new lead declassified? >> national archives records including documents are open to the public and you can come into one of our research worms and requests of the documents and you can go through the files as you make your own discoveries. on a fewe only touched brief documents and part of the exhibit of what are some of the other highlights we have not
shown that you think people would look at? >> is there are over 80 -- there are over 80 original documents. there is a miniature model of the hanoi hilton that the cia built when they were planning a rescue mission to north vietnamese and south vietnamese propaganda posters. in addition to the records, we have produced a film where we have interviewed people we experienced these 12 episodes and they talk about their first 10 experience and it is a wonderful way to view the war from different perspectives. >> it has been portrayed as an momentg adventure and a and it is none of those things. betterpeople understood -- had a better understanding
of what it it does to people who participate in it. them to remember what it was like during the war, the destruction, the killing, the violence and -- .nd think about what it is now that was my feeling when the war ended. i do not care one or lost. i only cared that the war ended and vietnam now experienced peace. >> former defense secretary chuck hagel and his brother tom served side-by-side during the vietnam war. up next on american history tv, retired lieutenant general
daniel interviews the brothers. they are the focus of his book "our year of war: two brothers, vietnam and a nation divided." the national archives hosted this one hour event. >> many of those who served in the military and got to come back refer to the come as brothers and we're privileged to to hear from two members for both comrades in arms and brothers, chuck hagel and tom hagel. they volunteered to go to war in the same efforts for unit. in our year of war, daniel recounts their general -- their story at the height of the war and home again. as we observed the 50th anniversary of the war, where privilege to hear from these eyewitnesses. served in the u.s. army for 35 years retirement as a lieutenant general. he commanding general's and abstinence than