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tv   American Artifacts  CSPAN  December 25, 2014 3:53am-4:26am EST

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1917, over 100,000 americans are killed during the first world war. and many more wounded. this general hospital number two specialized in two things. one, the very early plastic surgery was done here. in conjunction with top surgeons from johns hopkins and the university of maryland. if you look at these jawbones. these are the types of facial reconstructions that were done, the reconstructive surgery. men who had their jaw bones shattered, destroyed by exploding shells and machine gun bullets had new jaw bones fabricated an carefully implanted into them. again, a lot of early plastic surgery. a great deal of medical history was made here during world war i. addition to that, some of the first programs to train the disabled veteran were promoted here. we know through this woman -- emily reine williams, one of the
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lead nurses stationed at fort mchenry during the first world war. and that's another important theme here, the role of women at the time. you know a lot of times women are ignored when it comes to military history. in this time where women were seeking to gain the right to vote, women really proved themselves as nurses during the first world war. and over 300 female nurses were stationed here at fort mchenry. like i said, some of the first programs to help the disabled american veterans were promoted here. one program, they taught chemistry, so a man who was wheelchair-bound because he lost a leg was taught chemistry or taught calligraphy. one man who could no longer hear was taught to use a lino type machine. a noisy typesetting machine. a lot of men were trained. there were well over 100 different skills you could learn. it was really a cutting-edge hospital for its period. so over 100 buildings here as part of general hospital number
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two. you can see how many buildings there were. some of these are hospital wards. there was a train shed where they could bring in visiting families or wounded from other ports by train. a chapel, officers row, other hospital wards. some of these other buildings were also training centers to help those disabled american veterans be reintegrated into society. you can see the red cross headquarters that was here at one time. this was also during the golden age of baseball. the inside of the fort was converted to a baseball diamond. where the one-armed team sometimes had to play against the one-legged team. even though their bodies were broken, their spirits were not. you look at those veterans. really, the american flag waving over this fort was a powerful symbol of hope and healing for those folks during the first world war. that hospital was abandoned in 1923. and most of it was all torn down
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in 1927. the buildings and the grounds were left derelict for a number of years until the national park service acquired it in the 1930s. when that happened, as part of a national parks project, and also part of it, for some of the programs during the great depression to put people back to work, the works projects administration came to fort mchenry and built sidewalks, repaired brick walls. and so, i do not think there was any coincidence that during a time of stress and hard times during the great depression, 1931, the star-spangled banner becomes the official national anthem for the united states. and fort mchenry becomes preserved. this becomes a unit of the national parks service. but there is a clause in the deal that says if the military needs to use the grounds, they can always do so. that is exactly what happened during world war ii when the united states coast guard used
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about 13 acres of land as a coast guard training base. about 28,000 coast guard men and women trained here during the second world war. specializing in shipboard security and firefighting. i had the pleasure of interviewing a lot of these world war ii vets. i would ask them what they remember most about their experiences. almost all of them to a person, they say, i remember seeing the star-spangled banner waving over the fort. and how we had to change into our class-a uniforms every morning for morning information when the colors were hoisted and every evening when the colors were taken down. it shows you the impact of the stars and stripes on the world war ii generation. in a way, the stars and stripes in world war ii stood as a symbol of democracy triumphant. you see that here in a way through the image on "life" magazine from world war ii, that imagery of the flag and the events that happened here during
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the war of 1812 inspired another generation of americans many, many years later. so in a way, the visitors are still writing the chapters of fort mchenry's history. visiting fort mchenry is actually part of the history of the site. how different generations of americans come here to be inspired by the stories of the star-spangled banner, the american flag. if you look down here, you can see in the late 1940s, early 1950s, visitors coming here to the fort to learn about where key saw the flag, was inspired to write the national anthem. here, people coming here right after world war ii, you know, you can see all the cars and everything. in the 1960s and early '70s during the vietnam era a lot of military ceremonies were held here. these are called the tattoo ceremonies and they live on to this day where we invite guest units of the modern military, united states marine corps, army and navy to come here and perform on certain evenings in
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summer months. we still have change of command ceremonies for the military here. politicians and statesmen come here to walk the grounds for special programs. fort mchenry continues to inspire. just to wrap up this tour, i will show you a few places i think are kind of neat, some places that visitors don't always get to. so let's take a look at some behind-the-scenes stuff. taking you to places where no one gets to go. this actually speaks to when the fort was built, one of the oldest features of the fort that also plays into the war of 1812. you come down here, this actually goes to an underground passage. not a secret passage because everyone would have known about it at the time. but this actually goes, descends to a tunnel that goes outside of the fort's walls. and outside of the fort's walls, there was a ditch, or a dry
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moat. think of like a castle moat without water in it. well you have your infantry soldiers out there, guys with muskets. what if they're getting overrun? what if the british landed say like a d-day kind of invasion in overwhelming numbers? those americans could retreat to the inner fort. this would be the narrow passageway that they would retreat into. they would come through this passageway and come up here single file really, really quick. it's so narrow that if the british were on their tail, we could bayonet them as they came out this door and then secure it pretty quick. but this was known as the covered way. and it's a passage from inside the fort to the outside. in addition to the sally fort which is that big tunnel-like entranceway, the main entrance to the fort.
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we are going to go into one of the underground bomb proofs that date to the era of the war of 1812. there is a cool story about this underground bunker. so, when the bombs were bursting in air, there really was no underground bombproof. every soldier, every defender was totally exposed to the shrapnel of the british bombs. however, when the british sailed away, all the damage of the fort was quickly repaired. that's why you don't see any damage around fort mchenry today. there was a fear that the british would come back. so the fort was strengthened. one of the biggest issues to the fort was this very boomproof right here. this was built weeks after the battle. if the british did come back with those bomb ships the defenders could bunker down and go into these underground boomproofs.
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fort mchenry remained an active military post for almost 100 years after the battle of baltimore. so that in the 1930s, when the army decided to improve fort mchenry, they expanded the bombproof into this chamber back here. this is one of my favorite rooms. even though there was no battle here, because it is original. this room was built in the 1830s as a large bombproof so you could put almost a whole garrison into these. you could see it could accommodate more men. they had large air ducts, so the men could breathe down here. or you'd have numerous air ducts in case there was severe shelling and some of them became occluded or caved in, the men could still survive down here. again, these date to about -- this room dates to the 1830s, and it really just shows how the army saw fort mchenry as a viable, active military fort.
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for a generation or more after the star spangled banner had been written. so, what you see through some of the underground chambers and through the history of the fort is that fort mchenry really has layered history. people ask what is original? the answer is, it is all original. some of it dates to the bombardment in 1814. or earlier. some of it to the civil war, some of it to a few weeks ago. but the core of the fort is original and it really represents a time line of american history. a time line of star spangled banner. the unique places, the architectural features. it all really speaks to the power of place that really makes that history vibrant, relevant, and come alive. a lot of people say, well, in your title it says fort mchenry national monument and historic shrine. there are a number of national monuments as part of the
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national park service. national monuments are designated monuments based on their historical and cultural merit. among other things. but fort mchenry is the only place that has the dual distinction of being a national monument and a historic shrine. that historic shrine part was added in the early 1940s, because, after all, this is the only birthplace of the national anthem. we only have one national anthem. and this is the birthplace of it. so national monument for its history. historic shrine as the birthplace of the national anthem. makes fort mchenry very unique. one of the crown jewels of the national park service. and as a danger, it's a special honor to be the caretakers of this treasure of the american people. >> you can watch this or other american artifacts programs at any time by visiting our website.
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>> you've been watching c-span's american history tv. we want to hear from you. follow us on twitter >br twitter @cspanhistory. connect with us on facebook at or you can leave comments, too. or check out our upcoming programs at our website, krb >> and we'd like to tell you about some of our other american history tv programs. join us every sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern for reel america. featuring archival films by government, industry and educational institutions. join us as these films take you on a journey through the 20th century. again, that's reel america, every sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern, here on american history tv. on c-span3. here's a look at some of the programs you'll find christmas day on the c-span networks. holiday festivities start at 10:00 a.m. eastern on c-span
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with the lighting of the national christmas tree followed by the white house christmas decorations with first lady michelle obama. and the lighting of the capitol christmas tree. and just after 12:30 p.m., celebrity activists talk about their causes. then at 8:00, supreme court justice samuel alito and former florida governor jeb bush on the bill of rights, and the founding fathers. on c-span2, at 10:00 a.m. eastern, venture into the art of good writing with steve pinker. and at 12:30 see the feminist side of a superhero, as jill lepore searches the secret history of wonder woman. at 7:00 p.m., author pamela paul and others talk about their reading habits. and on american history tv on c-span3 at 8:00 a.m. eastern, the fall of the berlin wall with c-span footage of president george bush, and bob dole. with speeches from presidents john kennedy, and ronald reagan. at noon, fashion experts on first ladies' fashion choices, and how they represented the styles of the times in which they lived. and then at 10:00, former nbc
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news anchor tom brokaw on his more than 50 years of reporting on world's this chrise c-span networks. for a complete schedule go to >> about 50 years ago on august 10th, 1964, president lyndon johnson signed the gulf of tonkin resolution, which in lieu of a declaration of war, gave him broad powers to wage war in southeast asia. that resolution was passed by congress in response to an august 2nd attack, and an alleged august 4th incident in the golf of tonkin involving u.s. destroyers and vietnamese torpedo boats. american history visited the national security archive at george washington university to learn about numerous declassified documents that have shed more life on the gulf of tonkin incidents. >> i'm tom blanton, the director of the national security archive. we are on the top floor of the main library at george washington university which is where we live. we are in a room full of boxes of declassified documents.
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it's really an artifact because most of the declassified documents we get today are actually digital. a lot of boring digital, scanned or made digital and certainly the people that use our collections are using them online. in fact, in the courses we teach here at george washington, for most of these kids, if it's not online, it doesn't exist. so part of our whole mission has been to get these primary sources, loose from the government through freedom of information act request, and declassification review, and then get them into digital formats, organize them, extreme them, curette them, index them, so then students can find them, journalists can find them. citizens can find them. and even we get calls from congress. they have questions, too. >> how are you funded and where did you come from? >> we really were started by a whole group of journalists and historians back in the mid 1980s, each of whom had used
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the freedom of information act to get documents declassified from the government. i think the piles were stacking up in the kitchens. and their spouses said get these papers out of the house. and to save their families i think they created the national security archive. not just as a repository, but as an institutional memory, and a follow-up, because we not only inherited boxes and boxes of documents from these pioneering journalists and thoirsians, but we also inherited their pending freedom of information requests. for the really sensitive documents where inside the government there is a debate about, well, is this really secret or is it just subjectively secret or can this be released? it can take years to get a declassification request through the system. it can take, in the case of the gulf of tonkin intercepts and intelligence intercepts, this has been an iterative story for
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50 years to get the documents loose. bits and pieces. not the whole truth. we're told to the public right at the time by the president of the united states. what is an intercept? >> an intercept is when a u.s. satellite ship station, ground station with really powerful directional antennas, mic microphones, pick up an electronic communication, radio communication, radio-telephone communication, or wiretap of somebody's message. and during this period of the 1960s, north vietnam was one of our top targets for all of our signals intelligence gathering. and so in the gulf of tonkin context, the key intercepts, the key conversations we were trying to listen to, were those between
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the north vietnamese boats, torpedo boats who could do some real damage on our boats offshore, and their headquarters, which was in haiphong. we in united states had taken over from the french as the main sponsor for the anti-communist forces that were basically gathered in south vietnam. after the french got beat by the communists, really at dien bien phu, we could probably track it back further but we probably made a mistake after world war ii by not recognizing the nationalist aspirations of countries like vietnam and backing up the former colonial power, france, in that case. there were some reasons we did that. europe was way more important to us than vietnam. france, we needed as part of our nato in rebuilding europe
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against stalin and the communist threat. that ultimately churchill called the iron curtain. we came in on france's side while france was trying to keep in charge of vietnam. the japanese had taken over. here you have the vietnamese. from their point of view, they're fighting a 50-year war versus colonial french. then the japanese came in and threw out the french. then the french came back with our support. and now the french got beat, they got thrown out and we came back. between 1953 and 1964 we had not really dramatically escalated our presence in vietnam. we had supported the southerners who had split their country and refuse to participate in any countrywide elections. i think largely because they knew at least by the late 1950s they would have lost. ho chi minh, the communists had borne the greatest weight in beating the french and fighting back against the japanese and they pretty much had the nationalist cause wrapped around
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them. they probably would have won a free election. at the same time, they were communists. so free elections are purely utilitarian. they are not part of the communist toolbox. generally. so there are a lot of arguments about this. are these folks in the south our friends and allies? we had just played a real key role right before president kennedy was assassinated in november 1963 in approving the replacement of their previous leader, previous eight years, by a bunch of generals in a coup. that was in retrospect, seems to be a turning point. american policymakers, including ones close to kennedy, had gotten sick and tired of diem. were hearing that he was actually wanting to cut a deal with hanoi. we had a lot of rhetoric about the south is the freedom and the north is the tyranny.
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diem was not fighting against the north very vigorously or as vigorously as we thought. we had a lot of counterinsurgency specialists. graham greene wrote a great book called "the quiet american." about our hubris in thinking we could do it right. and so here we had these generals who were in charge from late '63 on in to 1964. we had ramped up our support for the generals, some air support, some advisers. we were up to i think under kennedy we had been up to 10,000 or so advisers, and johnson was putting more in. we had not escalated the war by bringing in major ground troops yet. and we had not escalated the war by doing systematic bombing campaigns against the north. that would happen a year later in 1965. but in the summer of 1964, you
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had president johnson running for re-election against a very conservative figure, senator barry goldwater. you had the u.s. navy and the cia running all of these covert, op-plan 34 tests, pressures, against the north. to figure out what their defenses were. so it was an intelligence gathering piece of it. also to ratchet up the pressure. part of the american mindset at that time was this notion of game theory that you calibrate pressure and then your opponent will ultimately respond to the pressure and by escalating like that over time, you could ultimately force hanoi to make a deal or back down. this was a fundamental misconception by the americans because game theory doesn't work on people who are in their own
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minds defending their homeland against just another imperialist aggressor. to think the johnson administration in the summer of 1964 was learning some of the wrong lessons from the cuban missile crisis of 1962. the public myth of the cuban missile crisis in dean rusk's phrase, we met eyeball to eyeball with the ruskies and they blinked. we ratcheted up the pressure, we had military dominance in the area, we made it so tough for them by standing tough ourselves that ultimately they backed down. with this popular conception, we now know from underlying documents, especially from the soviet side, was wrong. we actually, to his credit, kennedy got scared about the strong idea that things were slipping out of control during the cuban missile crisis. khrushchev did, too. both of them had been reckless.
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before the missile crisis, kennedy was running covert operations trying to assassinate castro. khrushchev decided he could sneak in a bunch of missiles disguised as palm trees. and get away with it. it was reckless. to a fair thee well. then they got into the crisis and saw the possibility of nuclear exchange and armageddon and the end of human civilization. you read some of their letters and messages back and forth, and you read bobby kennedy meetings with the soviet ambassador and you get the strong sense that the top guys in the kremlin and the white house, they got it. they got it that things were slipping out of control. at the ground level, there were nuclear weapons all over the place. we now know things that kennedy did not know. that there was a cruise missile aimed at guantanamo. if we had invaded, which all the generals wanted to do, guantanamo would have a synonym for hiroshima today. it would be a smoking, radiating rubble. there were 100-some odd tact cal nuclear weapons in cuba waiting for an invasion. that kennedy and khrushchev made a secret deal was not the public perception.
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the public perception was that testosterone won. we stood tough, they backed down. the same thing was being applied to hanoi. what is fascinating now that we can look through the historians' work, the inside historians' work, at the national security agen, robert hanyak who pursued the story, had access, went and did the basic fundamental work that intelligence analysts should have done at the time, which was to put all of the intercepts in one pile. and go through them. and see what did they say? where did they contradict each other? and especially where did they contradict this highly selective chronology that have become the internal secret official story? then that historian wrote a highly classified article, because it is full of
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intercepted signals, intelligence that showed the capabilities of the u.s. government to listen to the north vietnamese as they're ordering their boats around, down there off the coast of vietnam. we can look through the historians' work, the inside historians' work. the actual text of the intercepts of the north vietnamese conversations. and then listen to president johnson's phone calls as he's talking with secretary of defense mcnamara. and begin to understand two huge realities that were not known to the public at the time. one, that the north vietnamese attacks on the 2nd of august, 1964, were actually provoked by us. they weren't the unprovoked aggression that was presented to the american public, as the basis for our bombing back. in fact, we were running all of the secret patrols, the de soto patrols.
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top secret. to test coastal defenses, to figure out how the north vietnamese radar worked. to see how they would respond and intercept their communications among their haiphong naval headquarters and their actual torpedo boats on the coast. as part of an ongoing pressure on the north vietnamese. so their attacks on our boats the 2nd of august were presented as unprovoked aggression, when actually we had provoked them. so this was one of the big secrets. the president knew it. the defense secretary new it. we have got them on tape talking about it. op plan 34 mcnamara says. you know, this certainly had something to do with that attack. president johnson knows about it. >> i think i should also, or we should also at that time, mr. president, explain this op plan 34-a, these covert operations. there's no question but what
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that had bearing on and friday night, as you probably know, we had four tp boats from vietnam, manned by vietnamese or other nationals attack two islands. and we expended over 1,000 rounds of ammunition one time or another against them. we probably shot up a radar station and a few other miscellaneous buildings. and following 24 hours after that with this destroyer in that same area undoubtedly led them to connect the two events. >> say that to dirksen. >> they're aware that we provoked it. it was our secret probes on the coastline that set off the north vietnamese attacks. they are just defending the coastline against our aggression. so we did not say that publicly. again, repeating from the same mistakes of the cuban missile crisis. what you say publicly becomes something that you're stuck with, that you have to defend, and you have to spin out more lies to keep it alive as your
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case statement for why we're there. >> my fellow americans, as president and commander-in-chief, it is my duty to the american people to report that renewed hostile actions against united states ships on the high seas in the gulf of tonkin have today required me to order the military forces of the united states to take action in reply. the initial attack on the destroyer maddux on august 2nd was repeated today by a number of hostile vessels attacking two u.s. destroyers with torpedoes. the destroyers and supporting aircraft acted at once on the orders i gave after the initial act of aggression.
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we believe at least two of the attacking boats were sunk. >> at that moment of the 4th of august, you have this false warning from a -- summarizing from an intercept, not really giving an intercept, false warning, everybody is on edge. the destroyers start reporting sonar torpedo attacks. takes them a couple of hours to figure out maybe that is our own wakes. we are moving the destroyers like this which is what you do to have evasive action if you are under attack from a torpedo boat. but these destroyers are really fast boats with big propellers and big engines, and they're built for speed on the open ocean. so they make maneuvers. they set off all kinds of wakes. the wakes are picked up by the other destroyers' sonar. then all of a sudden you got this reinforcement, oh, my god,
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torpedoes in the water. then you have commanders of two boats saying, we're under attack, we're under attack, we're under attack. and it takes about two hours for commander hairic to finally figure out well wait a second, on the 2nd of august, we actually saw some of the torpedo boats. we saw them. we took pictures of them, zoom in across the bow. some of these pictures in navy historical collections. they had photographs of the north vietnamese torpedo boats. but here nobody had an eyesight confirmation at all. when they change the personnel and the sonar screens, the next sonar guy does not see anything. wait a second? what am i reporting? so between 11:00 washington time when the commander reports torpedo attacks, and a little bit after 1:00, when the commander says, wait a second, i'm -- i'm thinking that didn't really happen. i think it was just sonar error,
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and the airplanes overhead aren't seeing anything either. i don't -- maybe it was blind fishes. but already, in that two-hour window, washington had made a decision to go bomb, to go shoot back. anybody shoots at us, we're going to shoot back. >> secretary mcnamara, 9-0. >> mr. president, we just had word by telephone from admiral sharp that the destroyer is under torpedo attack. >> i think i might get dean rusk, and have him come over here and we'll go over retaliatory actions. >> i think i'll agree with that. >> i'll call the two of them. where are these torpedoes coming from? >> we don't know. presumably from these unidentified craft that i mentioned to you a moment ago. we thought that the unidentified craft might include one pt boat which has torpedo capability. and two s.w.a.t. top b


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