Skip to main content

tv   Oral Histories Katherine Westmoreland West Point Interview  CSPAN  February 21, 2018 12:06pm-1:12pm EST

12:06 pm
katherine westmoreland is the widow of general william westmoreland, commander of u.s. forces in vietnam from 1964 to '68. and army chief of staff from 1968 to '72. she was interviewed about her time living in vietnam and life as a military spouse by the west point center for oral history. this is an hour. >> good evening, ma'am. today is the first of october, 2016 and we're in the west point center for oral history, and i'm here with katherine stephens westmoreland, but you go by kitsy. >> right. that's right. >> ma'am, can you spell your last name for the transcriber. >> w-e-s-t-m-o-r-e-l-a-n-d. >> thank you, ma'am. tell me about your childhood.
12:07 pm
i knew you grew up as the daughter of an army officer. tell me what it was like growing up as an army brat. >> well, when i grew up in the army, i would say i grew up as a millionaire's child without any money. so i had the most wonderful childhood. i had two brothers and we all were -- well, my father had been in the cavalry and he was one of -- a wonderful horseman. so both my brother, my older brother and i rode from the time i guess i was 3 years old, and my older brother was the same way. >> what post were you on when you grew up? >> well, i was born in princeton, new jersey. the followers at princeton for six years. when he married my mother, my
12:08 pm
mother was a very beautiful lady, and i think most of the princeton students were in love with her because she was so lovely. and then my older brother was born there and i was born there. >> okay. >> and -- >> and then where else did you grow up? >> princeton and then, oh, dear. fort bragg, fort hamilton, washington, fort sill, oklahoma, hawaii, back to oklahoma -- >> wow. >> ithaca, new york. and i went to cornell because i got free tuition. >> mmm-hmm. >> and i guess that was it. and i met my husband. >> okay. >> again. >> well, we'll get to that in a
12:09 pm
second, ma'am, but one of the questions i always ask people who live through world war ii, and i'm sure you're going to have an interesting take on it being the daughter of an army officer, what do you remember about the day pearl harbor was attacked, december 7th, 1941? >> well, we had all been fox hunting. >> mmm-hmm. >> and they -- we went to -- we went to a movie, and suddenly we were told that -- and we had just left hawaii. so it was really -- it was just an unbelievable moment in one's life. >> sure. what did your -- what did that event mean to your parents, since your dad was in the army? >> well, you just didn't know. i mean, my father, i know was just very surprised that they --
12:10 pm
we were stationed up in schofield and they came over the pass, and i think my father was very surprised that -- we were surprised -- >> sure. sure. now, both your father and your brothers graduated from west point. so west point has been a part of your life for a long time. >> a long time. >> can you describe your childhood or adolescent impression of what west point was? >> well, it was -- it was just so much a part of your life, really, and my father threatened my brothers, you know, if you don't study, you won't be able to get into west point. and thank god they didn't allow women in my day, because i never would have made it, i don't think. >> mmm-hmm. >> but it was just something my
12:11 pm
brothers were expected. >> okay. >> to do. >> sure. >> and i think it was fine with my younger brother, but i don't think it was the best thing for my older brother. >> okay. >> i mean, he was a great -- he loved the -- he played polo here in this building, as a matter of fact. >> how many times had you visited west point? >> oh, many. when they asked me at the desk, have you ever been here before? i guess the first time i came was, well, as a child and then as a -- we called them cadet girls in those days. gosh, i can't remember. i think i was 16. >> mmm-hmm. okay. >> 15, 16. >> 15 or 16? wow. what did it seem like to you back then. >> own it was wonderful. i stayed with a classmate of my father's.
12:12 pm
he and his wife were stationed here. i, i was scared to death. i really -- they set me up with a cadet that truly wasn't very nice. i didn't like him very much. >> okay. >> sort of a snob. >> you must have gone to dances at the hall, then. >> we cull at cullum. you first went to a movie. if you got a coke or anything, you paid for it. and we walked. there was no bus service, no cars, and you learn very quickly in the winter to wear your boots and carry your dancing pumps. >> very nice. very nice. now, tell me about meeting your husband, general westmoreland. >> oh, well, we were stationed
12:13 pm
at fort sill, and i got my school bus, which was an old army ambulance. >> oh, okay. >> and it was drawn by two mules. >> how about that. >> and it stopped in front of wes' boq. he just graduated from west point and he was so handsome and so -- so that's when i met him. i was 9. >> that was at fort sill? >> mmm-hmm. >> you met him again later when you were a student at unc? >> no, i met him again in hawaii where i had a very beautiful
12:14 pm
polynesian dancing teacher. and i thought he was coming over to the club to dance with me. guess what? he danced with the -- he showed us how to dance. and then of course the war came along. >> world war ii. >> yeah. >> okay. he was in the european theater. >> he was in -- went into casablanca, into africa and then sicily and then england. >> france and germany. >> yeah. >> okay. >> so he didn't have time to have many girlfriends. so i was at my grandmother's. i called him up. >> okay. and this is after the war? >> uh-huh. >> okay. and tell me a little bit about that. >> well, i called him -- i just
12:15 pm
called fort bragg to see if he was there. i didn't even know if he was there or not. they connected me. he was commanding the 504 then. >> right. >> and the aide said -- wasn't an aide, it was some lieutenant. anyway, he answered the phone and -- wes answered and he said, kitsy, kitsy, are you a big girl yet? and i said yes. and he said, well, let's have dinner tonight. i'm going to general gavin's. >> wow. >> so we went to general gavin's for dinner. >> how about that. >> that was -- we were married november -- i guess four, five months later. >> wow.
12:16 pm
oh, that's nice. tell me -- describe your weding for me. >> well, it was kind of the first wedding in fayetteville where my grandmother lived in the town, so to speak. so it was more of a reunion for my parents than a wedding for me because everybody came, their old friends and everybody came. and the terrible thing that happened was that father had bought cases of champagne and this and that, and he found -- when he started to unload it, where we were having the reception, it was the woman's club and they wouldn't allow -- >> oh, my goodness. >> it was a great shock. but, anyway, everybody had a good time and then came back to my grandmother's house. >> okay. you wore your grandmother's lace, right?
12:17 pm
>> no, i wore my great grandmother's on the van duesen side. >> oh, my goodness. you said the dress had -- >> long sleeves and very covered. a long train and -- >> that must have been beautiful. >> it was. it was pretty. >> was he in his blues? >> no. he didn't have any blues. >> okay. >> i don't think then. i think my father was. father was in tails. >> wow. >> but i think wes was just in -- yes, he was just in a regular uniform. >> okay. >> because it was pretty soon after the war. he had just gotten home. >> right. now, one of the interesting things i noticed when i looked at his timeline was that he was a captain, although during world war ii he held the rank of colonel, did he -- when the army downsized they reduced everybody? >> he became a lieutenant
12:18 pm
colonel for just a little while. >> right. >> and then became a colonel again. >> how much did he discuss his world war ii experiences with you? >> not too much. >> mmm-hmm. >> not too much. >> now, during your early married life, as you already mentioned, at fort bragg he was the commander of the 504th. >> right. >> pretty soon after that, he was the chief of staff for the 82nd airborne division. describe your experiences at fort bragg. >> well, i think i was like a puppy. i just, i wagged my tail and walked in a room. i was so young. i was just 20. >> mmm-hmm. >> and i just thought everybody liked me. and i was much too young to be a colonel's wife. >> mmm-hmm. >> but as i say, i just sort of didn't take it that seriously.
12:19 pm
>> he would have been a young colonel, too. >> and he was young. >> because of the war accelerating everybody. >> yeah. so what was -- did you enjoy bragg? >> oh, yeah. >> okay. then during the korean war, your husband commanded the 187th regiment from 1952 to '53 as a brigadier general. >> well, he was a colonel when he went over. >> okay. and then promoted while he was over there? >> yes. >> okay. >> because somebody, that dreadful man told me that -- called me once and said that he could not wear the combat inf infantry badge because colonels couldn't wear it or something like that. wes was a colonel when he went
12:20 pm
to korea. >> okay. >> so he could wear it, i guess. >> now, when the korean war happened, where did you live? were you allowed to stay on post? >> oh, no. no, no, no. we were never allowed. in those days, you had about two days to get out of quarters and i went home. it didn't dawn on me not to go to my poor mother and father's. so i stayed there and then i was able to go to japan. >> right. >> and as soon as i got there, the chinese came in, i guess it was, and the 187th went back to korea. >> and the 187, while they were in korea, went back and forth from korea to japan several times. >> right. >> during the war. what was japan like? >> it was beautiful and very
12:21 pm
rustic. i mean, the honey buckets still went up and down the street. in fact, wes landed in a field one time that had just been spread. >> oh, no. so the fertilizer for the field. >> oh, yes. and i wouldn't let him in the house. i hosed him off outside. >> oh, that's -- >> oh, it was bad. >> and i've talked to a bunch of the veterans from the 187th and they really enjoyed all their jumps and your husband enjoyed jumping with them? >> he loved it. >> okay. >> i think he had 121 or something like that. i don't know. >> what was the japanese culture like for you? >> i loved it. it was, you know, you had -- you had gone through the war with, i hate the japanese and all that -- >> sure. >> but this was before the
12:22 pm
treaty had been signed. so we lived in a great big, gorgeous japanese house for, oh, about six months, i guess. and then we moved to the -- the peace treaty was signed and we moved to wearing pretty bad quarters. >> okay. now, after the korean war, your husband was assigned at various different times -- at various times to the pentagon and harvard business school. what were these experiences like for your family? >> well, wes was lucky. you were born and we were living in a very -- in park fairfax, which has no air conditioning and a tiny little apartment and
12:23 pm
we had an older, stevie, our oldest child. then i had rip and wes promptly left for harvard. >> okay. >> and he was gone. but i -- you went up to graduation. >> was harvard -- that was an unaccompanied tour for him? >> well, he just went up. >> is it was a very short tour. like three months? >> i think it was three or four months. something like that. >> you were at home with two children. >> i was at home in the apartment. and then when we came home, we moved into a bigger house. and then he worked for max taylor. >> how was that? >> it was -- oh, they were lovely people. >> yeah. >> and i had margaret, so they were -- i had two babies at the time. so i don't think i was a very
12:24 pm
good wife to -- i forget what his job was called. i don't know. >> but then after that, after leaving the northern virginia area, he -- general westmoreland commanded the 101st airborne division from '58 to '60. and from '60 to '63, he was the superintendant here at west point, from '63 to '64, he commanded the 18th airborne corps. >> it was just a few months of 18th airborne corps. >> yes, ma'am. what were your experiences like at fort campbell? >> oh, we loved it. it was such a -- it wasn't a very pretty post at that time. >> right. >> but we thought it was. we thought it was perfectly beautiful. and rip and i had the two little children, and then our oldest child there is, what, six years difference? >> mmm-hmm.
12:25 pm
>> fort campbell was -- because you had to make your own fun. >> right. >> and i even got the regimental commanders to dress in tutus and boots. >> that's a good story. they didn't jump out of a plane like that, did they? >> no, but we did a charity thing for -- the regimental commanders had their boots on and tutus. >> that must have been something. >> and did a dance. and we made a lot of money. >> well, that's good. that's good. and you lived in the farm house. >> we lived in the log house. >> okay. >> and they -- the commander officer's house was way off by itself, and i had two young children and stevie and they would have been miserable, you know, down there, so we moved up there. and loved it.
12:26 pm
>> then let's talk about west point and becoming the superintendant. tell me what it was like to be the superintendant's wife. >> well, when i walked in the house, i thought that the whole house would fall down and god would say, you are kitsy van duesen, you do not belong here. but i was -- i had young children and i was 31 or 32 i think at the time, and i just had a wonderful time. >> mmm-hmm. >> because i didn't think of the cadets as young little boys, so to speak, they were -- they were all gentlemen to me. >> mmm-hmm. >> and, i mean, i was not that much older than they were. >> true. >> and i think we just had a -- had a lot of fun together.
12:27 pm
i went to all of the -- their -- i went to the swimming and the wrestling and track and, you know, and football, of course. >> right. >> baseball. i loved it all. and the kids would go with me sometimes and sometimes they would say no. but -- >> what were your favorite activities here? >> you know, i love wrestling, can you believe it? but i loved swimming and -- well, i love football, of course. and i love baseball. but i loved the -- i just love sports. >> right. and i imagine that you went to all the formal events, right? >> yes. yeah. >> so all the different dances and that sort of thing. >> not all of them, no. >> yeah. and -- oh, yeah, tell me about entertaining at quarters 100. >> oh, well, you could seat ten
12:28 pm
on either side and so it would be ten, 20. >> at the table? >> at the big table. right. we had wonderful people come. i mean, well, just sincerery interestisincerery -- sincerely, interesting, fascinating people. then we had the cadets. that was like a hell dinner. i would pick up my spoon. they would pick up their spoon. oh, well. we ended up -- i think we had a good time, but you couldn't drink at that time, of course, and -- but we served liquor afterwards. and that sort of broke the -- >> who were some of the most interesting people that came to quarters 100? >> i guess, well, of course
12:29 pm
president johnson came and -- was -- no, president kennedy. >> okay. >> came. and that was a fun time because i had hired the two ashworth boys and i had given them 25 cents apiece to keep rip, who had, oh, the most wonderful crowd of little boys that just did everything. and i had hired bobby and jeff to keep rip -- i said i don't care where he is -- where you go or anything, but just keep him out of sight. well, of course he ended up, bobby and jeff ended up listening to president kennedy's speech firsthand. they went -- you went under -- didn't -- under the -- and then when we had a garden luncheon,
12:30 pm
and when everybody was leaving, one mary, i can't remember, one of the people that was very close to kennedy said, oh, kitsy, we've had the best time with the boys. i said, boys? i don't have any boys. she said, you've got five boys up in that tree. and it was when the old copper beach was there and all the little boys were up in the tree and they would send a basket down for food. >> mmm-hmm. >> and they were filling their basket up and then the basket would come up. then it would come down again, i gather. i never knew what he was going to do. i never knew. i could control the two beginnings, but, no, can't control him now. >> mmm-hmm.
12:31 pm
and eisenhower visited as well, correct? >> yes, he did. >> and bradley, too. >> bradley. >> what were those -- what were they like? >> well, and mcarthur. it's -- it's something about being the superintendant, i think, that they all if they've been a cadet, they kind of will -- mcarthur really was very polite and, you know, straight with -- >> sure. >> and so was general eisenhower. i got to know, and i didn't know general bradley as well as i knew general -- i knew general eisenhower and maimy was a very good friend, and gene mcarthur was a lovely friend. >> yeah. you told me earlier that they were all very nice ladies and they would call you and visit. >> oh, yes.
12:32 pm
and we -- when wes was chief of staff, we had the -- i turned kind of the third floor into a guest -- and there was an elevator. so people could come and -- >> you frequently had mrs. eisenhower come visit, right? >> well, she loved to come because her sister had a one bid ro -- bedroom, and she had secret service. so any time she came to washington, she always stayed with us. >> that's nice. >> and she couldn't believe, rip had her robes, bathroom and she couldn't believe the room. i mean, it was a boy's room. >> sure. now, general mcarthur stayed there the night before he gave his duty, honor, country speech? >> no. no. >> no?
12:33 pm
>> he came and ms. -- came up and there was the review. and then we took what was the lady's room and turned it over to jean and general mcarthur. and i forget what she -- i wanted -- i think just water with no ice or something, you know, like that. >> mmm-hmm. >> and they stayed in there and rested and then he went to the mess and gave -- >> and i heard he had rehearsed his speech. >> well, jean told me that he had said this, you know, that he had never given the speech, but jean told me he rehearsed on her for many nights. i don't know if that's fair to say, because, you know, he did say it was -- >> right.
12:34 pm
now, your husband commanded in vietnam for over four years. starting in january 1964 to june of 1968. tell me about your experiences during that period when he was deployed. >> well, we had, what, a year in -- with the children in vietnam. >> 15 months. >> okay. >> and it was, oh, dear, they -- you know, they went to school on early in the morning on a school bus with chicken wire so grenades couldn't be thrown in. >> wow. >> and there was an mp in the front, wasn't there and an mp in the back. and this was not my children, it was everybody's children. >> sure. >> that went to school. then when they got to school, we had only vietnamese guards.
12:35 pm
but the hospital and the school had mps. but we had vietnamese guards. so did wes. >> what was it like living in vietnam? >> well, you know, if you have children, you understand that you're really kind of scared most of the time, if you want to know the truth, but you're not going to show your children that you're scared. and they were -- the children there were absolutely wonderful. >> mmm-hmm. >> i mean, they protected one another. they -- we had movies at the house and they would -- i mean, you all were -- there wasn't really a bad cookie that i know
12:36 pm
of in the -- in the crowd. and they had -- you all had a really good time. unfortunately, they saw the -- the boys saw "the great escape" and they started digging a tunnel in our house and they -- that was your main and west went down in it and came out dead white. because it was some tunnel. >> wow. and i heard he had ordered some wood after that, right? to shore it up. >> to kind of hold it up. they all had sores because, oh, dear. >> how was the vietnamese culture? >> it's lovely. they are a beautiful people.
12:37 pm
and i -- my main work was red cross, and i did -- i really worked every -- almost every day i worked in the vietnamese hospital. >> mmm-hmm. >> and the -- our hospital and then i went to nha trang once a week. >> okay. >> to do red cross work. >> all right. now would you go by ground convoy or did you fly? >> no, i flew. >> in a huey? >> in a -- well, one time i was in a huey and we got shot at. but mostly i went in an airplane. >> okay. right. now how about your daughters in vietnam. how were they? >> stevie was -- had a team club and margaret had a best friend. they had kind of a compound. so the children came to our
12:38 pm
house or to -- what would you say? i mean, you -- you all -- >> stevie had the honda 50s and the cheerleaders. >> the cheerleaders. >> they were just wild teenagers, is what they were. >> okay. >> all of the -- then she was in love with carl and all the vietnamese children, there were 32 of them in the back -- >> 32? >> yeah. >> wow. >> they would go in and watch her core. poor stevie didn't realize it, but all these little -- didn't you go watch her with carl? yeah, a little bit. >> they had the red room. they were listening to the beatles. >> they painted this room this horrible color red and black, but, anyway, it kept them busy. >> right.
12:39 pm
now, tell me a little bit about your red cross work. well, that was the -- that was my -- really, i did it almost from the time i became married. i worked -- then i worked -- well, i worked in vietnam and when i went to hawaii, i couldn't work as much, but i always worked at fort campbell and every place we were stationed, i always spent at least two days. then i became a nurse's aide in -- >> did you get an award for your red cross work? >> i got the harraman which was outstanding volunteer of the year. >> that's wonderful. >> i'm sure proud of that. >> what was it like working with
12:40 pm
the soldiers in vietnam? >> well, you know, they were -- they were -- they were wonderful. >> mmm-hmm. >> when we -- when i was there, the hospital was really awful. they had the x-ray was across this huge, busy road, and i remember one of our -- turner. he was rather badly wounded. they had to take him on a pulley with an umbrella. it was pouring down rain. across this busy intersection to the x-ray. >> wow. >> i mean, we had no x-ray in the hospital. and they had to carry the gurneys up the steps because they didn't fit in the elevator. >> mmm-hmm. >> i mean, it was -- and then i
12:41 pm
had a guest house in the house we lived in, which i turned into a hospital, and we could take 30, 30-some beds and we -- i had it arranged that if i -- i called one person and then they called. and we could set up this hospital. >> mmm-hmm. >> and that was christmas eve. they were all there and the bomb, you remember they bombed the -- >> right. what year was this? >> when was it? i can't remember. >> the rex hotel. >> yeah, they bombed the rex and
12:42 pm
the other. there was boq that they bombed. >> right. >> and, you know, it was awful because presents just went out the window, but what we did is we emptied out the hospital in town and brought them to my hospital. then we could put the wounded in the hospital. >> okay. >> i know that doesn't make sense. >> you'd bring up some of the -- you'd bring up 30 patients. >> we brought 30-some patients. >> to the guest house to free up room at the hospital. >> to free room at the hospital. >> that makes perfect sense. now, sometimes you'd have to take your kids into the hospital. like one time your son got blood poisoning from digging his tunnel and you had to take him to the hospital. you said there were wounded soldiers being brought in. what was that like? >> well, they were -- that's what i did.
12:43 pm
i mean, i -- i worked almost every day with them. >> mmm-hmm. >> and you didn't dare get sick. >> right. >> i mean, because -- and rip went in and out in a hurry, right? >> mmm-hmm. >> i mean, the children, well, you had no dental care, of course. >> right. >> and you didn't have a doctor. i mean, so when you went in, you went out. >> now, what was it like having the wounded soldiers in your guest house? >> well, it was christmas eve, and that was when they bombed, and i remember i was coming down the stairs because we were having a big -- lots of people were coming from, you know, out country for dinner, and we had the funniest christmas tree.
12:44 pm
we had three trees wired and they were all scrawny. >> sure. >> you know? but, anyway, we had a christmas tree. and then the -- well, it, you know, it kind of changed -- we didn't have christmas eve dinner. >> right. >> and sort of changed. >> now, you became good friends with bob hope. >> yeah. >> tell me a little bit about him. bob hope and his wife. >> well, he was -- well, she's -- she really was my very dearest friend after we first -- i don't know, you click with somebody and we did. but bob was a wonderful man. you know, i don't know if you know the story that he always had cards because he was quite blind. >> mmm-hmm. >> and of course wouldn't wear glasses or anything.
12:45 pm
and he was going -- coming in his car and he forgot his, what did he call them? >> cue cards? >> there were cards that he used for -- i mean, there was a name for them, but he forget them. and he said -- they said, oh, well, we'll bring them to you, mr. hope. he said, oh, no, i'll get my cards. so he turned around and with that, the bridge he was going over was blown up. >> oh, no. >> so that really saved his life. >> wow. forgetting his cue cards. oh, my goodness. >> yeah. >> so how long did you -- you stayed in vietnam for 13 months? >> yeah. >> then we -- i guess that's '64
12:46 pm
to '65. where did you go after that? >> we went to hawaii. >> i'm sorry. i keep getting you while you're trying to take a drink. you're good. >> we went to a relentlental hod then i bought a house in hawaii. and then they said i could go to the philippines. >> mmm-hmm. >> so -- >> you didn't much care for the philippines? >> no. i probably should be very careful, but -- >> okay. so what was it like in hawaii? >> well, we loved hawaii. we really, i mean, we -- i worked at the -- i can't remember the name of the hospital. >> mmm-hmm. >> i did red cross work there and met some airplanes, but then when i went to the philippines, i -- i did air evac and worked in the air evac hospital.
12:47 pm
then i flew air evac. i would fly into saigon and spend a couple of days and fly back with a plane load. >> mmm-hmm. now, does any one incident stick out in your mind about the red cross work that you did? >> i guess -- i guess the one thing that was -- was really kind of funny was that i was in vietnam and i always, you know, went to see the wounded there. >> mmm-hmm. >> and the hospital was where we were -- rip went to school, where they all went to school. there were two black men that were right next door to one another, and they had -- one had lost the left leg and the other had lost the right leg, and they
12:48 pm
were clvery close. i mean, they were bonding with this. so i saw them in vietnam, and then i flew an air evac back to the philippines. and my two black men were on the airplane. and they said -- by this time, we recognized one another and they said, oh, if we could just stay together. and go to walter reed. so i said, well -- and they came into the hospital because they were badly wounded. we kept the badly wounded for a few days and then they were air evaced ou evaced out. so i called wes and told him the names. he called his surgeon. i don't know. anyway, they ended up at walter reed. so i had seen them in vietnam on
12:49 pm
the air evac plane and in the philippines. then wes got called back to the united states. so i went back to washington with him. and i went out to walter reed. and here were my two black ones side by side, and they looked up at me and said, ma'am, you sure do get around. [ laughter ] >> that's a good story. >> so that i think was the most personal story. they were wonderful. i don't know where they are now. >> it's interesting. i was thinking about this as we're talking, i don't have any interviews with any of the red cross workers that were in vietnam. >> oh, you should. >> well, now i have one with you. what were your duties like? >> well, you just did what y
12:50 pm
you -- what you wanted to. i mean, i wanted to be -- i wanted to be with the vietnamese. so i vietnamese, so i worked in their special forces. they had a special forces hospital. and i one time i couldn't get over the infection that we have. that was our in the philippines, they would come in and be infected and you could -- it was -- terrible odor. i went into this special forces vietnamese and there were two in a bed. and you know, it was clean but it wasn't our hospital clean.
12:51 pm
and there was no infection. at all. no smell. and i turned to the special forces doctor and i said, i just don't understand this one. >> right. >> and he said well, if they've survived as children then -- >> okay. >> so we're almost too clean with our children. >> so they built up immunities. >> yeah. >> okay. now, as a red cross worker, were you -- what they would call -- >> i was a nurse's aide. >> okay. >> and at times -- gosh. i sewed up a couple of people. and i think oh my god what they
12:52 pm
must look like, but really you know they were just pouring in. >> was that the most difficult time for you? >> yeah. i would say -- because they were flying in dirty and you know, they were getting them out. >> right. i imagine it was probably good to see a friendly face when they came in. >> you know, i think another funny story i was bathing this black -- the first thing you did was bathe them. and i was bathing this young little black, he was black young soldier and he looked up at my name tag and he said, westmoreland. he said are you in relation to the general?
12:53 pm
>> i said yes, honey, i'm his wife. he said you know ma'am, i always wondered what generals wives did when their husbands were oversea. -- >> wow. >> i said well, i'm bathing you. >> that's nice. that must have been quite an experience for you being over there. >> it was. it made me feel more useful. >> yeah. i'm sure your husband appreciated that as well. >> i don't know if he did. [ laughter ] >> he was busy. >> so you didn't spend awhole lot of time on the home front then did you? you were constantly back and forth between vietnam,
12:54 pm
philippines and hawaii? >> yeah. >> of ft nation at that time -- >> we didn't have television particularly in the philippines and i guess we realized that in hawaii. when we got to the philippines, we had the army time and didn't have television. and we really didn't know it was so bad. >> you were insulated by being connected to the war front. >> yes. >> your brother, the kernel, commander of the second of the 47 infantry regimen killed on july 7th 1968 -- >> july 4th. when his helicopter was shot
12:55 pm
down in the delta region. >> right. >> tell me about how you learn about his death. >> oh, well i had not seen my parents in like four years i guess. oh, this was an awful time. >> i'm sure. >> but -- that was almost the first thing that came over west's desk as chief of staff. so he had to wait until you know, they acknowledged it. and then my older brother who was class of '46. he was in washington. so we -- we flew down to
12:56 pm
fayetteville where my parents were and i haven't seen my mother in three or four years and she was so happy to see me and then i shook my head and -- >> so she didn't know yet until you got there. >> no. >> that must have been very difficult. >> we drove around fayetteville because care lin, my brother's wife. we didn't know where she lived. we just had an idea. i said to van, that we've got to tell his wife before we tell our parents because it seemed like the right thing to do. and we couldn't find her. well, it turned out she was not
12:57 pm
not there. she was in blacksburg virginia. but my mother was so happy and then i remember i just shook my head and -- >> that must have been a rough time for the family. >> it was. >> so tell me a little bit about how your role as a commander's wife differed from the post to post and assignment to assignment, anything different because you were at campbell, and then bragg and washington and vietnam. >> washington, you kind of just existed and then i had two babies. i had rip and margaret and she was born when we were at fort myier. and diddy tailor, west worked
12:58 pm
for max tailor and she was wonderful to me. >> and this was in the late '50s. >> when were you born? mid -- margaret was born in '55. >> what was the hardest or most challenging day you experienced as an army wife? >> i guess to tell my parents that my brother was killed. >> i can understand that. well, what was the best or most rewarding day you had as an army wife? >> oh. i guess being here -- >> so west point has a special place for you. >> yeah. i always said that i couldn't complain that i was at west point and if you're at west point, unfortunately, you can't complain. >> it is a great place to be.
12:59 pm
[ laughter ] >> husbands and wives form command teams within the household. did your husband ever use you as a sounding -- go ahead and take a drink, i'll wait. >> did your husband ever use you as a soundingboard for things happening with his work. >> yeah. but he never paid attention. he was going to do what he wanted to. >> sure. >> yeah. but we talked quite a bit. >> that's important. well, the next question was going to be what was your favorite assignment in the army but it was here. >> it's west point. >> during your time in the army, events for army wooifs and
1:00 pm
wife's clubs are different than no, can you describe some of them? >> i was never good at making a speech or anything like that. in fact, this is the first time i've done anything like this and i'm doing it just because i didn't know that it was -- but sh. >> i'm so glad you did. >> i think one of the funniest times i had was at fort camel and i liked ice-tea with lots of lemon and lots of sugar and i was brand new being introduced and i had put all of this sugar in my tea and i was stirring it and everyone thought i was going to give a speech. and that was the last thing i
1:01 pm
was going to do. so everybody stopped talking. and -- [ laughter ] >> so it was the clan being of the spoon? >> i looked up at this quite group and they started talking again. >> and at that time, the women wore gloves. >> right. >> and dresses and hats. tell me about that. >> well -- >> this generation don't know about that. >> i said in my day we wore gloves. and think of all of the germs that we're getting going down this and in those days i had when i was here, i had dploglovt
1:02 pm
the front door i can grab when i went out. you just dressed -- but we volunteered, i don't think any of the wives worked per se. but i used to tell when west commanded something, i would say to the young wives, go get a job quick. get something to do that you like. to volunteer. and get it and make sure that you -- you're going to be asked to volunteer. >> right. so and volunteering was very important to you. >> it was. and i think in my day, it was whether you road the school bus or spent time at the -- there
1:03 pm
was always a child care and that was all volunteer in those days. and so you volunteered your time on the school bus or there or in the hospital or -- >> what did you do after your husband retired? >> oh, my goodness. i guess we fought. [ laughter ] >> no, we really didn't. but he wanted to come to south carolina and i just -- i did not really like south carolina and he had 31 first cousins on his mother's side in columbia and that's the capital. >> sure.
1:04 pm
>> so he said i could go to -- we could go there. so we built a house there and loved it. >> and it is beautiful. >> and it's beautiful and i got very busy there and west went around the country talking for the vietnamese. >> okay. i heard that he visited every state and talked to veterans in every state. >> he did. >> did he feel -- tell me about how he felt a connection with -- >> well, he felt that vietnam soldiers and in those days, you just can't imagine what -- i mean -- one man -- i can't think of his name. later it became chief of staff.
1:05 pm
he was taken off of a train on a stretcher. and somebody came up and spat on him. i mean it was that bad. and you know, the 101st was called out to protect the memorial bridge. there were terrible things that happened. >> well, now, your father, your brothers, your husbands attended west point and you lived at the academy yourself. what does west point mean to you? >> oh. that's a brutal question. it was so much apart of my life. that -- >> so was there anything in new
1:06 pm
york city with the vietnam veterans? >> no. i don't think -- >> march 1985. >> oh, daddy, yes. he lead that march. and he was very proud of that. he walked down -- was it 5th aven avenue? >> -- broadway i think. they gave themselves a march because knono one else did. >> oh my goodness. >> yeah. >> and your necklace, that's his -- >> his class ring. and i was out visiting out the hopes, west and i on my 50th birthday and i wasn't a very good sport about it. about being 50. i thought i was really over the
1:07 pm
hill. and delores gave me this that says oh, to be 50 again. and she always said -- i guess she really was my best friend and i think i was probably one of her best friends. she always said, she was 17 years older and she always said i'm old enough to be her mother and i said that's going a little far. >> is there anything i haven't asked you that you want to say? >> well, i have three wonderful children and i think you all had a very good time growing up. we were lucky. we had a wonderful sergeant that eventually retired with us
1:08 pm
because he would not leave his boy. >> and chris. >> we had really people that loved us and we loved them and sergeant walker. >> and walker. >> and just special. >> so the army is a family. >> uh-huh, and i think they were proud of -- >> sergeant daniels -- >> sergeant daniels was my head man here and i was going to call it but i think he is gone now. i talked to him last time he was up here and he wasn't too well. >> you certainly got to meet a lot of wonderful people. >> we did. we were so lucky. i think secretary russ was one of my very favorite people. and so many of them were
1:09 pm
fascinating. >> well, ma'am, this has been a wonderful interview and we were so honored to have you come in here today and speak with us. i'm glad -- >> you're a wonderful interviewer and i thank you for your kindness. >> here is what is ahead today on c-span 3 "american history tv." coming up next a west point interview with kenneth carlson, talking about his experiences as a cadet, vietnam war services and teaching at military college. and another one henry thomas serving as a medic in the vietnam and -- a conversation with katherine westmoreland, the widow of general william westmoreland. and tonight we'll hear oral
1:10 pm
histories about the vietnam war from veterans and their spouses. prime time 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span 3 and coming up tonight on c-span 2. book tv on prime time. the digital world. brian deer talks about the impact of early computer programs on modern technology in the book "the friendly orange glow"lessly berlin talking computing and video games and biotechnology, the book called" -- >> and the "know it alls" book tv and prime time on c-span 2 and tonight, former housing and urban development secretary, julian castro. mr. castro severed under president obama says he is
1:11 pm
considering a presidential run in 2020. and you can see his comments tonight on c-span, 8:00 eastern. >> sunday, kate talk about her memory" everything happens for a reason" diagnosed with colon cancer. >> i felt god and the love of other people. people pouring in and the intense prayers. the second i got sick the community prayed like marathon runners for me. part of them was reflektsing back love and the sense that like, as your preparing to die like i was having to make preparations that someone or something meets you there and i certainly felt that way. >> q and a sunday

31 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on