tv Oral Histories Kenneth Carlson West Point Interview CSPAN February 21, 2018 1:11pm-2:58pm EST
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next on oral history. kenneth carlson, his experience as a west point cadet and his years teaching at military colleges. this interview is part of the west point center for oral history. it's an hour and 40 minutes. good afternoon, i am in the center for oral history with kenneth g carlson, how are you sir? >> i'm good thank you. >> carlson. >> and you're not the only carlson in your class are you? >> i am not the only carlson in my class, there's another guy with the same name, kenneth carlson, kenneth r. carlson, he was a wrestler. i was sort of a basketball player. >> did it cause problems for you? >> the day i reported into the gymnasium, i walked in the door
with my little bag and the people who had the roster there said you've already signed in. i said no i haven't i just walked in. kenneth carlson, you just, you already signed in. i said i really have not. oh my gosh, there's two of them. kenneth g. and kenneth r. so i was getting his laundry which was too small and he was getting mine so now the classmates know me as ken carlson large and he was ken carlson small but me didn't like that so now he is ken carlson hand some and i'm ken carlson large. >> tell me about your background where you are from and where you grew up. >> i'm an army brat, born in detroit. my father went to the pacific as
an army officer. was going to be part of the invasion in the philippines. he was an ordnance officer. that's why we were in detroit. he came back, i'm sorry he didn't. my brother and i went to japan after the war was over and part of mcarthur's pioneers. >> wow. >> lived in yolk what ma. and they were about the same age and he went to school through some sort of a mail order program and i was two years old at the time and i learned to speak japanese before i learned to speak english. i had someone who taught me. a little boy speaking japanese. so anyway. when we came back, i was three years old and let's see -- where did we go? we went to the naval war
college. they didn't send him to the army war college, they wanted him to transfer into the brand new air force. my father wanted nothing to do with the air force. so they said well, you're a rising guy, 06 by that time. so we've got to get you some purple experience. so they sent him to the navel war college. we enjoyed that time. we moved around for 16 or 17 more times until he ended up in vietnam. as a family. >> wow. >> and i've got a little article that i'm going to give you a copy of. this is from vietnam magazine, and i have an article in here. a two page article and the interesting part about it is a lot of people said my dad and brother severed. not a lot of people can say my
mom severed too. he was the deputy chief of the mag under sam williams in world war ii. he got the names hanging sam because he was in charge of the executions. my dad -- and there was another bridge dare. so we lived in a very nice mansion with servants and drivers and that kind of stuff. but they had to go on the social circuit every night for three or four things a night. and it was really bothering my mother for two reasons. she started to become an alcoholic and standing in high heels on mash l stuff for hours on end every day and it was hurting her back. >> what year was this? this was 1957-58.
i got there '57 and '58. so two years. one conference my dad was coming out of, he lingered for a few. these generals are well timed on where they are supposed to be and when. a huge planter blew up and it was targeted for him. he was supposed to be killed. my mother was upset about that and three weeks later the vietnam men, drove by on a motorcycle and through a hand grenade under my school bus. it was moving and i was sitting up front, thankfully. and it blew up the back. within a period of the month they tried to kill my dad and me. and my mother was becoming frantic. so just at that point in time,
sink pack sent orders to vietnam saying we want general carlson to go to -- and start the mag there. there were some north vietnamese. and he said, no. i'm not going to do that, i can't do that. him and my mom stayed up all night writing a letter and stamped top secret as the reasons why they couldn't do that. my brother was at west point. they are trying to kill us. a lot of different things. and he was sent back to the pentagon and promoted for the second star and retired in 1962. >> yes, sir. how was it living in vietnam for you except for the bus. >> i had a lot of fun there. i was a 13-14-year-old kid. i had a diplomatic immunity
card. that got me and my friends out of a lot of trouble. we only went to school in the morning because it was too hot in the afternoon to be able to stay in the cluster hot classrooms. so in the afternoon we went -- that's the frercnch sports club. and it was populated by french girls. because their parents were working in vietnam after the french left. so i would go there and i was learning french in school but i learned french by talking to the girls in the by canikinis. i had a pretty good time. we went to hong kong and india and took trips and we finally came home in late 1958 and we
went instead of back across the pacific we went around the world and came back through paris and i flew on the second 707 to ever cross the atlantic. the first one from new york to paris, we got on the return flight and -- >> that's exciting. >> that's the first jet i've been on. >> a second ago, you said white mouse. >> some of the listeners might not know what you mean. >> the vietnamese police, they wear all white. >> i imagine you learned to speak french pretty well. >> i was a good french speaker. i took it here into advanced french and i used it during times in europe. but if you don't use it, you lose it. >> did you learn any vietnamese. >> no. i learned vietnamese swear
words. we all knew those. >> of course. what year did you arrive at rest point? >> 1962. >> and what was your expectations when you showed up. >> my dad did not want me to come to west point. he's a 31 graduate and my brother was a '61 graduate. he said you have other opportunities, you have ivy league schools trying to recruit you to come. i said i think i will, i think i'll go to princeton and then president kennedy gave his famous speech. about paying price to protect liberty and i said dad, i changed my mind, i want to go to west point. he said are you sure, it's not going to be pleasant. i heard stories from you and gunner, my brother so i will be prepared. well, when i walked into the
door i was too well prepared. you pick up and drop your bag the first day when the man tells you to drop the bag, i set mine down and pick it back up smack head, i dropped my bag and it bounced because i filled it with foam rubber to protect my shaving gear so the guy looked at it and said your bag just bounced. open that up and they saw all of the foam rubber. he said it is one of these guys who knows all the inside stuff. and at that time -- there were not enough first class men in the world -- >> so it was a challenge. >> it was a challenge. >> but i was a good student on the honor roll most of the time. i graduated 57. i sneaked into the 10%.
i didn't have academic problems. my tactical officer called me in one day and said i need your help and i said you need my help and this was when i was a cow. i need to give awe new roommate and i said who is that, and he said kevin kelly. he's in the ejection seat which means he currently stands last in the class and if he goes deficient in anything he is gone. and he is a great hockey player. so he said i'm moving him in with you and i want you to help him with academics. kevin could come home from hockey practice and say i need to rest my eyes for just a little bit and lie down. and i said we are having a written journal review tomorrow in electrical engineering.
are you prepared for that. come over and tell me what i need to know. so i read to him while he was sleeping, okay? [ laughter ] >> and actually, i brought him up 11 files. when he graduated he was 11th from the bottom. when i moved he was at the bottom. he ended up becoming a doctor. actually, he was a obgyn. if i ever woke up on an operating table and i saw him over me, i would die on the spot. he was not the sharpest tack in the draw but he was a good guy and i'm glad he graduated. >> you said you played basketball for a little. >> i played for bobby knight when he was the coach and mike silver man, the all american was my roommate. so bobby was speck four working
for kates lock who was the coach at that time. kate's wanted to move to south carolina and asked bobby if he would be the head coach. he said yeah, but i'm a speck four in the army. we'll get you out of the army. and he said will i make as much as a speck four. and somebody wrote a number on the piece of paper and said this is what we're going to pay you, and he said okay, i'll do it. bobby knight is a hands on coach. he would grab you. we had buckets of water, he kicked it had and threw chairs across the court in the middle of the basketball game and got thrown it. but he was a super basketball coach. and now, until mike took over, he was the guy who had won the most basketball games in collegiate history. >> wow. >> i only played for him for a
year and a half and then i realized i was not going to be a starter and he and i didn't get along very well, probably my fault. so i left and went to the do other activities. >> as you progressed through and got ready to branch, what was in your mind? what were you think being for branchs? >> we all had to go in the class of '66 we had to go to ranger school. they did not send us to the basic course. and they figured maybe if you went to ranger school you'll learn enough about combat that you will succeed this vietnam where we all knew we were going. so i said, look, this was at buckner that i made this decision. they put news a concrete trench and shown us a tank attack and pretty soon all five of them
they come up and drive over the ditch and they tell you get your head down. over the ditch. when i'm commissioner, i want to be the guy in the tank not the guy in the dish and that's why i wanted to go armor. >> and you were high enough that you got it. >> oh, yeah. >> any other classmates were higher? >> wesley clark was the number one man in the class. and the top guys go engineers. with some exceptions, well sometimes there's a guy number one who wants to go infantry. and he stood specifically said armor. and i said oh my gosh, there goes my chance to go to berlin where i desperately wanted to go. at the end i said where are you thinking about going wes, and he said well, i'm choosing between -- and berlin. i said think quick. i said you don't want to go to
mu nick, you will not learn to be a platoon leader if you go there. and i was the extra guy to pick and i went to berlin. >> how was berlin? >> it was 90 miles beyond the iron curtain. am i doing okay? >> you are doing great. >> had three infantry baa tall yoens one tank company and artillery battery and one helicopter detach meant. and the britains had a buer goo day there. so i went in as the platoon leader of company of 40th army and the company commander was 34 years old. a guy with a lot of experience. so he said when did you graduate from the basic course?
i said i haven't been to the basic course? he said what. none of us did, we go to ranger schools and airborne and out to you. he said what do you know about tanks? i said not much, but i'm willing to learn. unfortunately you can't learn by experience. so here is what i'm going to do. it was january of 1967. he said i'm going to send you to an nco tank commander course in west germany and you're going to be there with a bunch of sergeants but you're going to learn everything about a tank. that was the smartest thing he ever did. i learned how to take apart and put them back together in a motor pool and the mud. the troops were not longer able to make fun of me. before i left i was figuring out and a sergeant came up and said how many times have you done
that, turning it this way. you have to keep track, if you turn it 52 times it unscrews and falls off. so i'm putting things in the logbook. here is the number of times i turned and the troops thought it was hilarious. and in the motor pool, that's where i lived. i went out and took the -- and handed it to me and said sir, you have a long distance call from america. and i said i do, so i picked it up. the guy on the inside said hi kenny, it is mommy. and by this time i'm going what? everybody is going oh my god, we got the lieutenant again. he's got a lot to learn. it ended up being a good experience. one of the more interesting things is we had an immediate reaction platoon having to go out in ten minutes notice.
we had to be at check point charlie if the russians started making noise and screwing things up again. and we had to live in the bar ricks when that happened. mine was called out at 6:00 in the morning. in the woods that surrounds berlin. and they said report to -- which is the commander in chief in the united states army europe, four stars. at block 68. i haven't been a platoon leader long so i'm smart enough to say you will be lead and i will be second in line. he said i know block 68 blindfolded. and we got out there and there was general -- i'll think of his name in a minute. and i reported to him and he was standing there in hunting clothes next to his mercedes. we called him apl.
he said lieutenant carlson, take your platoon and go down to that wood line on the other end of the open area and i want you to come through wood line and when you come out, i want you to put your unit in line and come with me with five tanks in line driving right towards this mercedes. and i said yes, sir. and i want you to be sure to be buttoned up. do not let me see heads sticking out of any tanks. because i want to see if you can do this without hand signals. i had no clue what was coming. we went down the road and turned sbot wood line. and he said we're going to lineup. i said guys let's go. everybody lock your hatches. we're going right for the mercedes and what we were doing was driving wild boar. >> sure.
>> and he said lieutenant, that was outstanding. and i got a four starleter as a second lieutenant. which is not too many people get those. >> do you still have that piece of paper? >> i have it in my file somewhere. my company commander congratulated me and that was my welcome to berlin. i met my future wife, she was working in the state department. i knew i was going to vietnam. i was a platoon leader for a while and then the aide. which i did and i did it for two different commanders. samuel baldwin, in the vietnam as the division commander and samuel goodwin who retired out of the berlin -- and one story i need to tell you. >> what's that? >> one of my favorites.
four days into being an aide and general baldwin says we need to go to -- troops are down training in west germany, we need to go there. so set up the arrangement. sir, when do you want to go? he said a day and a half from now. so i come out. i have a sergeant who is the stenographer and a sergeant who is the driver. and i said how do i get airplane reservations, how do i get there? and somebody give me a vehicle and speck six said, lieutenant, relax, you have your own plane. i said you do? not you lieutenant, but the general has his own plane. i said what am i supposed to do. make sure you have a 45 that is loaded a handcuff that you can carry the general's plane. he needs to carry the
contingency plans and he's going to have top secret document spts he is going to be armed. and i said how do i get to the airport. we're going to pick you up in the mercedes and we got to temple hof. two pilots in front and two passengers in back. looks like a shchevrolet with wings. i brought my map. i'm an airborne ranger and supposed to know where i am 100% of the time. -- knowing it is a soviet insulation. i'm expecting him to give me a quiz and i realize that navigating from the air is not the same from the ground, you can't see the features. they look the same. so all of a sudden i go and say
i've got to know. i will ask the pilots. i'm looking around. oh, here, it has a little tube and a funnel. so i said can you hear me up there? can you hear me up there and the general drops the magazine and said why are you talking into the -- tube. i said, sir, i didn't realize, i was trying to talk to the pilots. he said let me show you. he reached forward on tand tappn the copie splot said what can i do for you general? i was so embarrassed. he said, let me introduce you to
my new aide and tell you about the first time we flew on the plane. i became the laughing stock of berlin. i got a really got aor. >> you said you had experience in berlin before? >> yeah. when i was a cadet on aot which was not cadet troop leader training it, i guess. >> okay. >> i went to germany and a couple of classmates went to berlin after we were done and had a few weeks before we had to go home. we were sitting, a classmate of mine sitting by the new wall. not the new wall but the wall had been up for two years. this is summer of '64. so we're having a beer and looking at the little old lady standing in the corner with the red lielt, green light thing and the light keeps changing and she
never crosses the street. she pulls out a pair of by knock lars and looks across the wall. we stood and you happen looked across the wall and about five or six blocks in, a little old man leaned out of a seven story window and they waved and blew a kiss and she put them in her bag and started to walk away and i ran over to her and said -- with my terrible german -- and how is it that your husband is in east berlin and you're in west berlin. the day the wall went up, he was on a business trip. i have not been able to talk to him or touch him for the last 2 1/2 years. at that point in time, the meaning of freedom was never clearer in my mind and i said i want to be stationed here.
i want to face these guys on the other side of the wall and give them the italian salute every day and i was able to do that because my platoon was moving around all the time and we saw the russians all the time. >> wow. that is an incredible story. >> so i said i wanted to be in berlin. and thanks to west clark, i got to be in berlin. >> so when did you return back home from germany? >> it was in the let me see, let me take a look at my cheat sheet here. i left in october of '68 and got home for a short leave and deployed straight to vietnam. >> who did you go to vietnam with? >> myself. it was an individual replacement. after the siege of caisson and the marines needs a lot of help so they brought the 5th mac to
carson to give more army support. it could have gone either way in caisson. so when they came over, they had a calvary troop and of the 12 calvary. that's not where i was supposed to go. i had a set of orders by general goodwin. george pat ton's son. he offered me a calvary troop at the request of goodwin. so i had a set of orders from de and got to the 90th repayment battalion and i'm looking for a jeep. i want to get out of the repayment as fast as possible. and a major comes up and says what are you doing captain. i have orders for the 11th acr.
he took them and tore them in half and he said this is vietnam, we don't give a dam what da says. we're sending you somewhere else. as far north as you can go in vietnam before you are in north vietnam. we are sending you to -- and that's what i did. >> wow. and so what was it like once you arrived at your unit? first let me tell you when we landed. we had to stop a couple of different places. when i got to -- they never stopped the airplane because the marine airport there was under showing. so the c130 on the run way and they kicked us out and they handed us helmets and we ran for cover. welcome to the new unit.
159 artillery. >> running off of the c130 as it is still moving? >> yes and they handed us helmets and we ran and got our bags later on. >> that's an incredible welcome. >> i had been -- as far north when i was a kid. i never knew what it was. and they said it is the last airport in vietnam. if you pass there you are in north vietnam and you are screwed. >> holy cow. >> so i went and the repayment attachment again and issued us a uniform. get your patches sewed on by the local vietnamese and they gave us a 16-rifle. >> what did you train on as a cadet. >> m-14.
>> so the second night, a major came in and said, you guys officers? we all are. get your stuff on. here is a clip for your m-16. you go to this bunker and you here and i ran out and took charge of a bunker. we were not under a ground attack, thankfully. if we have been, the first time i fired the rifle it jammed and didn't know what to do. thankfully, it was not a big ground attack, but it was a big attack. so that was the first day and two day later i got called in by the commander and he said captain carlson, have you ever been a call vary man? >> i've been a tank platoon leader. i'm relieving the commander in the 12th call valerie, and putting you in i was hoping to
be a staff officer. he said report down to the landing zone nancy tomorrow and i did and i was in command of 318 guys and 440 combat vehicles. >> what kind of vehicles? >> assault vehicles which is a 113 with a 50 on top and two m.60 machine guns. and i had radar tracks. medical tracks and with a full set of medics in it. 44 combat vehicles and not including the wheels and stuff. >> what was your mission? >> well, interestingly enough, my mission was in the to do what they told me to do although they gave me missions occasionally. they attached me to a tank battalion, the first of the 77th armor and the first of the 77th i was attached to them and they
never gave me a mission because the first time i took the troop to the field which was about four days after i was in command. the first helicopter to land was a marine helicopter. the commander of the third marine division. a fella by the name of ray davis, in world war ii won the navy cross and in korea won the medal of honor and add a couple of silver and bronze stars, he was a stud. he said ken carlson, i haven't met you yet but i heard a lot about you. so they were doing some research too and he said now listen, you are -- you've got a unit that moves faster than more fire power than anything i have in my division, so the words 911 did not exist in that day, he said kwlour goi you're going to be my fire
truck. you turn on the red lights and move like hell. i said sir, how will i know what the mission is. my operation shop will call spu tell you. if you have a question about a mission i give you, here is my card. he reached into his fatigues and pulled out essentially, a business card and on the back of it he wrote his frequency and personal call sign. sudden death 66. if you have a problem, i only give this to italian commanders but i'm giving it to you. you call me if there's a problem, okay? and eventually i had to do that. later down on the line, i got a stupid recorder from the headquarters. i was walking around with a get out of jail free card. >> that's the second time?
>> yes. diplomatic immunity. >> and yes. and sudden death 66. that was great. >> so how did everything go? >> well, we did a lot of work along the dmz. they wanted us to do a show of force. this was after the battle of caisson where five american marine battalions surrounded by vietnamese divisions. the battle lasted for five and a half months and these guys living like animals. the c 130s couldn't get in. it was the flu again. we were on the low ground and they occupied the hillsides. so every once in a while they would send my troop up to take a look around making sure they know we have forces that can move to the ocean border. i took them to the border several times and came back. one come back mission i got a
call from the marine headquarters saying stop at caisson, we have a mission for you. and i said what is the mission? and they said when the marines left, they left their minds unexploded. and so we want you to go out and blow up their minds. i said did they give us a map, they said no, marines don't get maps. i don't have engineer capability, how do you expect me to find them? drive your vehicle around caisson, it is about a mile and a half long and a mile wide. drive them around caisson and exploding the mines. and i said this is -- this doesn't sound good but i'll try. so, i blew up two, 113s immediately and we had to fix them. then a tank went by and i said maybe i will leave the tanks
here because we hit a tank mine and it blew off the -- assembly of the tank and that's the point in called the division, and so called the 06 in charge of the operation shop, and i said, are you the guy who gave me this mission to explode these, and i said, i just medevacked out one of my men, and i have no idea who i am going to be seeing, but i won't blow up the entire cavalry troops to do that and he said it is a legal order, captain. i said that is not going to do. so that transmission ended on a bad card and i called sudden death 66 and he said, ken, how are you doing? i said not well, sir, because i have an ord rer from the ops shop here. and he said, where are you? i said kaesong. and he said what are you doing?
i said i am blowing up mines with my vehicles, and he said, who is the stupid ass who told you to do that, and he said okay. i said, well i told him that ig. and he said, good. and so he said i have another mission for you, go to ql 9 and then turn into the dmz which snort and don't cross the ben high river which divides the north and south, because there is a huge dry rice paddy there, and there is a troops that are guard i guarding the rice paddy and have the vehicles facing outwards, and i said, sir, what is the mission? he said set up the perimeter, and that is all i can tell you. the lieutenant said, what are we
doing? i said, standby, because this is direct ly from the sudden death 66, and we will do this one, and we sat there for a while, and in comes the ch-46 which is the marine version of the c--47 helicopter, and down comes the helicopter, with cooks lights setting up the paddy dike, and they are standing there, and waiting, and the lieutenants call me and say, sir, what is going on? i say, stand bishgs and out of there comes the dmz reconteam and they have not shaved in a month. they are dirtier than dogsp coming walking out, and they meet with these guys and make each one of these guys a ice cream sundae with soup to nut, and cherries and mare she know e
cherries, and they have this and they put it back into the cans, and go back into the dmz and the helicopter takes off, and my lieutenant calls me and said, what did we just see? i said an ice cream social, and i said, i don't know, but i know where the oorder came from and so five minutes later from his helicopter the ch-46 sudden death calls me up, and he said, and this is the way that the marines talk to you on the radio, your name and not the call sign. and he said, ken, are you wondering? he said those guys have been in the dmz for a month and i deserved they -- and i believe they deser vved an ice cream sundae, but to make that happen, i had to have complete security
because i was one of the cooks in the whites, and the only way they would allow me to be that close tho dmz ao the dmz they h allow me complete security. and you did that. and i said semper fi, sir. semper fi. that is one of the best ice creams wefr had. after i was out of command and i commanded for six months which is standard and i went to the brigade staff and i got a call from the marine headquarters and i got a call saying that the general would like for you have to be invited to dinner tomorrow night, because the miss america troop is in town, and he is going to have them to his mess and you are the only army guy invited. can you come? can i? can i?
i had not shined my boots for months and i made sure they had a pressed set of jungle fatigue s, and so we sat there and had cocktails with the miss america troop, and i was the the youngest guy in the troops, and only guy in combat and i was sitting across from the colonel who gave me the original order, and ended up in the conversation of i did not do the right thing. but i sat there with miss new jersey and miss arkansas and we were in the middle of the dinner, and the mps came in and they said that we are being hit by rockets. we have to evacuate immediately. i'm looking around at the first plated dinner i've eaten in half a year, so i grab ahold of miss new jersey and we go out to this bunker and it had an actual viewpoint where you could see what was going on over the quang tri combat base.
we are watching the rockets come in. and miss arkansas is on one side and miss new jersey is on the orders. miss arkansas said, that kind of look like the fourth of july. and i said, no, it doesn't. she said, what do you mean? i said, people are dying when those things land. that doesn't happen in the fourth of july. and she started crying. miss new jersey, on the other hand, said, when you come back from vietnam, where are you going to go? and i said, well, i don't know. and she said, i want you to come and visit me in new jersey. so, i didn't. i didn't. i went back and married the girl that i met in berlin and we had 4 children and now we have 13 grandchildren, so i made the right choice. but you know, spending the night in a bunker with a couple of good-looking ladies on either side of you was an interesting experience. >> sure. and what did you do after that? >> you mean when i left -- oh, after my command?
i went to the brigade s-1 shop and answered congressionals. >> oh no. >> my job was -- well, i had to write all the -- i had to write all the congressionals for the brigade commander to sign, which meant that oftentimes i had to go town to the site of whatever happened, and i was not an i.g., but i had been a commander and so i knew what questions to ask. he would sign the letters and they would go off to the ocll. but in one particular case, it was a letter from one of senator kennedy's constituents who said, our son, sergeant gibbons, was killed in vietnam on the 1st of march, 1969, and he was on a tank. and they told us that they had to seal the coffin because -- well, they didn't tell us why they had to seal the coffin. we wanted to see his body.
so i didn't have to go investigate that one because i was in that battle with sergeant gibbons. he was riding on one of my tanks and he was hit by an rpg, and his body was blown apart, and after the -- after i had gotten control of the situation and we had defeated the enemy that was firing rpgs at us and i had people continuing to work that issue, i went back to see what the wounded situation was, and nobody was touching sergeant gibbons, and i said, hey, we got to the will police this gentleman up here, and here is my poncho, and we have to u put the body parts in the poncho, and the troops said, sir, he is not one of ours and i said, yes, he is, he is an american soldier. so one of the platoon soldiers saw me picking up body parts and putting it in the poncho and he jumped on the other young troopers and he said, you're letting the troop commander do that without your help? you're not thinking, guys. so everybody started helping.
anyway, when this letter came in, i knew what happened to sergeant gibbons from personal experience, and we wrote that in the letter. the army made a serious mistake when they said he died of small arms fire. an rpg is not small arms, and his body was dismembered, and so not really fit to be viewed in a casket. but you know, we gave him all the honors we could possibly give him and always awards and decorations. he was a brave soldier. and when i turned that over to the brigade commander, whose name was gibson, not gibbons, it's the only time i ever saw him cry. so, that's what i did. i wrote 200-something congressionals. >> wow. >> in six months and then redeployed back to the united states. >> and when you came back to the united states, what was your mission?
>> my mission was to get married to the girl i left behind. but i was sent to the infantry advanced course, rather than the armor advanced course, and i, you know, i called armor branch and said, why are you sending me to the infantry advance course and they said, we want armor officers with successful combat experience to go down and tell these guys at the infantry school where they're right and where they're wrong. so i ended up first in the class down there as an armor officer but i had to leave three days early before graduation because i had to report to graduate school at princeton. so they said, you're going to be an honor graduate but you're not going to be a distinguished graduate, and i said, all the tests are over. all the, you know, all the papers are turned in, and i am so many for -- i had a 99 something average. aren't i the distinguished honor graduate? and they said, we don't really like to give that to other branches.
so i was a good graduate, you know, but i wasn't the top guy. and then i went to graduate school. >> okay. tell me a little bit about your wedding. where did y'all get married? >> all right. my wife lived in salt lake with her family, and my folks were living on the east coast still, and my brother was in oklahoma at the time, i think, at the artillery school. and so, we decided to get married in salt lake, but we couldn't do it at a mormon wedding because both people have to be mormons and they have to be sealed in the temple, but we did get her stake president, which is like your bishop -- well, higher than the bishop in the mormon church, but he agreed to marry us in a civil ceremony, which we did at fort douglas, utah, in the military chapel there. and it was snowing. it was december 6th.
i can always remember that because one day before pearl harbor day is when i got married. it was snowing and we got into the chapel and the night before, my wife to be said, i am just not certain that we can do this. she said, we've had a lot of history together. but you're not a member of the church, and i -- so i said, well, look, i've flown a bunch of people in here, they're planning on going to wedding tomorrow so i'm going to be in my blues standing with my brother who will be my best man. if you don't show up, i'll have a little card and i'll say, ladies and gentlemen, we're not going to have a wedding here tonight, and here's the situation. she said, i don't know. i just don't know. so, wedding came off, and she came in with her father, and they played "here comes the bride" which is something they don't do at a mormon ceremony. "here comes the bride" and she walks up and just about where my father and mother are sitting, she stops. she just stops. and i reach into my pocket to
pull out the card, and she says, no, no, no. what happened was her train got caught on a nail, and my father looks down and releases her, and so she comes bouncing forward, and we got married, and she said "i do" three times so i made sure that she was going to be good to her word. and we have now been married for almost 50 years. >> congratulations. >> thank you. >> how was princeton? >> princeton was my choice. i was selected to come back to teach in the social science department here at west point. and i asked colonel ove, where would you like me to go to graduate school? and he said, you can go anywhere you want, anywhere you can get into. i said, where do you prefer your people to come from? he said, we like harvard, princeton, johns hopkins, stanford. those are the big schools for international relationships and also for economics. and you're probably going to teach economics when you first get here. so i said, do you have a preference? and he said, no, that's your call.
i said, i think i'll go to princeton. and when i got there, the first day we arrived -- and one of the reasons i picked princeton is i said stanford is the middle of the vietnam war, stanford is in flames, and i don't think i want to go to harvard because it's also equally left wing and against the war, but princeton is a pretty conservative place. we went to princeton, the day we arrived, they burned down the rotc building. welcome to princeton. >> what year was this? >> this was 1970. >> okay. >> but we didn't live on campus. we lived off in a small new jersey town nearby. i had a great time learning international relations, except for richard faulk, professor richard faulk is the guy who took jane fonda to north vietnam, as ap anti-war as they get. he was the professor of international law.
so we were in one of those great big bowls where the professor speaks and everybody looks down on him and he was lecturing on the vietnam war. of which i had -- from which i had recently returned. and he said to everybody there, he said, there are no north vietnamese troops in south vietnam. these are all indigenous viet kong who are fighting against an illegal government. the north vietnamese are not involved in this in any way. and i stood up. i didn't say a word. i stood up. nobody knew that i was a captain in the army. i had started growing my hair a little bit, and i wasn't wearing a uniform. i stood up. and he's giving his lecture and he looks up and he says, who are you? i said, sir, i haven't had a chance to personally meet you yet but i'm captain ken carlson, united states army, and i have just returned from vietnam. and i am here to tell you, sir, that there are lots of north vietnamese troops in south vietnam. i was engaged with many troops in uniform and we had a very good kill ratio of 100 to 1.
i lost 3 guys and they lost 318 guys. so i can assure you, professor faulk, that there are north vietnamese -- he said, see me in my office, which i did. and by the way, everybody said, who was that guy? you know? so i went to his office, and he said, i didn't appreciate you interrupting my lecture. i said, sir, i did not interrupt your lecture, i just stood up, and you recognized me and then you asked me what was my problem and i told you. and he said, i didn't appreciate you, you know, trying to invalidate the points that i was making and i said, professor faulk, if you missed the point, you were wrong. and i don't know why you felt like you had to be wrong, but you were wrong. and he said, well, don't do that again. so, i got an a plus in his course, by the way. but princeton was -- judith miller, who is currently on fox news, judith miller was one of
the classmates i had at princeton, and she was a wild-eyed anti-war liberal. she used -- when she learned that i was an officer, and i put a little sign up on my carol in the library that said, war is my business, business is good. she hated that. she said, how can you shoot those innocent women and children like you did? and i said, well, you just lead them a little bit less because they don't run so fast. i said, judith, we never did that. we never. we made sure we weren't killing civilians. now, that's not to say that no civilians ever died, but none of my soldiers ever shot a civilian. and she said, i don't believe you. i said, well, richard faulk is your guy then. but now, she's become a wild-eyed conservative. and so somewhere along the line, she saw the light. >> now, what was it like teaching? >> the best three years of my life. i had great people around me. don was the head of the department.
barry mccaffery was the executive officer. i was working with jack jacobs and wes clark. i was working with a whole bunch of people, a very smart group of people. i taught ecomonic first semester and the only economics training i had was from colonel ove who was my instructor as a cadet, and i said, sir, you might recall that what you -- the grade you gave me was one of the lowest grades i received here in four years. he said, that's right. that's why i'm going to have you teach it. because this time, when you teach it, you really have to learn it before you can teach it. sometimes i was 20 minutes ahead of the cadets. but nonetheless, i was able to do macro and micro and international economics and the students loved me.
and i loved teaching them. and then the second semester i taught international relations, about which i knew a lot more, and they said, we're going to give you an elective. and the elective was public policy and administration. which is how does the bureaucracy work or not work. and i was pretty much a well read into that too so i had an elective for the last two years. i started with two sections and ended up with six. >> wow. >> people said, you got to go take carlson's course. fast forward to the time that after i retired. my wife and family are visiting me up in new york. and we're walking along, going into the world trade center and two guys stopped me and said, are you captain carlson? i said, not anymore. i'm mr. carlson now. he said, but you taught, right? i said, yes, i did. sir, i had your class. i said, well, that was, you know, 15 years ago. he said, you haven't changed much. he said, i threw away everything except my west point atlas of american wars and your course notes, and i still look at your course notes every once in a while when i'm trying to figure out what's going on in the government, because you had it right. and that's why there were so many people signed up for your course and you had more people
than you could handle. well, my 16-year-old is standing next to me. i couldn't have paid these guys enough money to say this. 16-year-old saying, my dad doesn't know anything. but you know, they walked away and my son said, wow, dad. who knew? i said, well, now you do. so i had an interesting experience working on wall street. lots of interesting experiences, but you don't want to hear those. >> well, at the right time, we do, sir. >> all right. >> after you left the soc department, where did you go? >> that's where guy to my cheat sheet. >> that's about the time when you went to the commanding general staff college? >> that's correct. i was a student at the commanding general staff college immediately after leaving. i went to ft. levenworth, kansas, i got involved in a whole lot of community activities because i had little kids so i had to go referee things and announce things and so on.
but i also -- my wife let me build an office in the basement in our little townhouse that we lived in, and she kept the kids away from me, so i actually did the homework. most guys said, you know, this is another damn army school, but i figured, look, this is the next level of stuff. so, they also had me teaching courses there. they had me teaching courses on international relations and economics, which i could do. that wasn't a problem. but i ended up winning the marshall award, and -- which was a real honor. wes clark had won it the year before. but as a result of that, the chief of staff of the army gets to make your next assignment. and so, i didn't know that. they didn't tell me i won the marshall award until the day before the marshall award and i said, well, i node an assignment. and they said, you know, general rogers is the guy who's going to assign you. i said, i need troop time as a major. will somebody please tell him. i had been promoted to major by that time.
please tell him that i need troop time as a major in order to make me fully branch qualified to become a battalion commander. they said, he'll know all that stuff. so he sent me to work on the combat vehicle technology program, which was being run out of his office at fort knox, kentucky, and it was not a troop assignment. and i was just, you know, i was going, i've been -- pardon the expression -- i've been screwed by the chief of staff of the army so i made arrangements with the 96th armored brigade, which is at fort knox, and i said, i said an xo position as soon as i can get away from this chief of staff issue. got you. they looked at my record and said, absolutely. you're the man. and then i came down on the second below the zone to lieutenant colonel. and i was promoted almost immediately, so therefore, i never had troop time as a major. which meant i was not fully qualified to become a battalion
commander, at which point in time i went, thanks a lot. you know? thanks a lot, general rogers. so i never got a battalion. i became a brigade xo in the 8th infantry division and i was the ig for 5th corps and i taught at the national war college and i was a member of the founding faculty of the school of advanced military studies, and so i did a lot of educational work, but i never got to the point where people would say, you know, we think that this guy who we promoted twice below the zone to lieutenant colonel should be an 06. one of the people at the school of advanced military studies, the colonel who was the head of that, and he said, i've got a congressman coming in who wants to sit on one of the seminars and i want him to sit on your seminar. he's a historian and he knows some stuff. send him some literature and so i contacted his office and i
said, when is this gentleman going to be able to come, and they told me. i said, tell him that we have a 15-man seminar, and it goes from 8:00 in the rp momorning until he'd like to stay for a week and we're going the russian, german second world war part and it was newt gingrich. the congressman from the atlanta airport at that time, a brand-new congressman, and he came in and i had sent him a bunch of stuff to read and he came in fully prepared. i told him, congressman, the deal here in this seminar is no quarter asked, no quarter given, so if you say something, that doesn't make it true. i've got 16 smart majors here who are likely to challenge you. and we went -- we did that for a week. and he said, these are the best seminars in the military that i've ever been to. he said, you are not trying to run the show. you are letting these guys do the work but every once in while, you'll throw in, who thought about this, who thought about that. at the end of the week, my wife victoria and i were having dinner gingrich and he said, i
understand that you are thinking of getting out of the army, and i said, well, i got passed over for of the first time. that is the bell that says it is the time to leave the ship. he said, i want you to come work for me. i said, doing what? i want you have to be my chief of staff. and i said -- victoria and i looked at each other and said, can we talk about that a little bit? because this was before he had departed and we came back and said, how much would you get paid as the chief of staff? he said about $70,000. which was more than i was making but victoria and i said, we've been to d.c., and we said we don't think we can do that. we've got little kids, and we don't really think that we can. so i've got other fish to fry, but thank you very much. and so i watched newt gingrich grow up, thinking my life would have been totally different had i resigned. and then the second time around, i got picked up. i was one of two combat arms officers, nonselected in the
first year, who were selected in the second year. and it was because there were a whole bunch of generals in the army who knew that when i was a brigade xo, i turned in my brigade commander for doing illegal stuff, and he got relieved. and i resigned my position as brigade xo and i sent this letter to general vono who was commanding the division and colonel reimer at the time, both later chief of staff of the army. and i went one to the corps commander as well and i said, i can't work for this guy anymore and the honorable thing for me to do is resign and here's why. and i laid this out in a six-page letter of the stuff that he had done, which was illegal, immoral, and fattening. and so, as a result of that, they called me back to fifth corps and said, we want you to run reforger 83, be the head of our plans division, which i did. and then of course he wrote an
oer on me before he was officially relieved, which then became a black mark. once i had sent in my rec lama for this thing, it became a black mark on my record the whole time. so it's easy if you're on a promotion board, the object is to get rid of files as fast as you can. if you open it up and see a black mark, that's a discard. but the second time around, all those people who knew that i had gotten passed over the first time wrote letters to the board. saying that we had done an injustice to ken carlson and so i was the first guy on the list to get promoted to 06. >> wow. >> and at that point in time, they had been -- glen otis had been trying to get a sams graduate to come over and be one of his plans officers, but carl vono, the chief of staff of the army, said they only go to corps and divisions and otis said, aye
-- i've got the army group. don't i count? he said, there's not enough to go around. as soon as i came out on the 06 list, otis wrote in and said, i want carlson. so i went to work for glen otis. and then after him, butch saint. i stayed in heidelberg for six years, which was really long but my kids had the opportunity to finish high school, two of them, and then i went back and taught at the national war college and retired, and i finished a 26 years in uniform and 4 years at west point, so when people say how long were you in service, i say 30 years. >> yes, sir. >> yeah. >> did any of your children go to the army? >> no. >> okay. >> no. that actually -- they -- when i was talking to them about, you know, are you interested in going to west point, they said, dad, we know what you've been doing, and that's not the life that we want to live, and i
said, you do whatever you want to do. by the time i was in wall street, i said, i can pay for any school you want to go to. so, pick which one will let you in and they all went to byu and all got married out of byu. >> wonderful. now, i'm going to ask you a little bit about what you've done since the army. >> okay. >> but before that, i see you have a purple heart. >> yes. >> and you mentioned your hearing. >> yes. >> tell me a little bit about that. >> the day that sergeant gibbons was killed, it's called the battle of cam hung. you can google it and you will find a complete description of the battle from a number of different viewpoints, one of which is captain carlson's view of what happened. we were on a night defensive position outside of quang tri combat base, and my ambushes were all out, ready, you know, trying to keep the north vietnamese from coming in and talking to the villagers at night and extracting taxes and
things like that, so we were set up for the night and i get this call from the headquarters of the first of the fifth mech that says, we want you to report to headquarters immediately but not with a combat vehicle, so bring your jeep in. i said, in the middle of the night? can i come in with lights on? no, blackout. my driver said, where are we going? i said, we're going over there, about three miles away. he said, can i turn on the lights? i said no. so we drove in the dark and got there and thankfully, they had told people that a jeep was coming in so they didn't kill us. and i reported to the brigade commander. and he said, ken, i'm about to ask you to do something that i've never asked anybody to do before. i want you to take your cavalry troop and move cross country up to dong ha. i want you to cross the dong ha river and get to a place called cam lo and then you will come under the operational control of
the third or the fifth cavalry. they found a north vietnamese regimental headquarters being guarded by two battalions. they're on one side of a hillside. they want you on the other side with your cav troop. so we drove all night and because we couldn't have lights on or anything like that, i had to get off the vehicle every so often and shoot an asmt. we were not on roads, but cross country. i think that's the only time that happened in the vietnam war. cavalry troop moved in the middle of the night without being -- on any roads whatsoever. we got across the dong ha river, into the place and we had not yet heard from the third or the fifth cav. nick from the class of '57 was the operations officer. and so i tried to contact him, and we couldn't make contact. so i told my platoon leaders, put everybody to sleep right now.
and then you guys come and sit in my track and we'll figure out what to do. so, we didn't get any sleep that night. but by that time, we had heard from the third or the fifth cav, we want you to move up on this hill and line up so that you were looking down into the valley and we're looking down from the other side and we've got those -- and then there's an infantry battalion and marines that have put a cork in the bottle and then we're going to blow the hell out of them with the air force and go down and see what happened. so, we sat there and watched the air show the next morning. outstanding. i mean, napalm, the whole nine yards, and lots of snake and nape. so, then they -- it's 5:00 in the evening, they said, take a platoon of yours and go down the hill and do some body damage -- bomb damage assessment for us. find out what's left down there. so, i took the nearest platoon and i told them, lead with tanks, and they were missing a tank, so they got another platoon tank.
they went down the hill, followed by a cav platoon. i was in the middle of the cav platoon with my track. i wasn't going to lead from a tank. got down to the bottom of the hill, and suddenly from the woodline, there were still some guys alive with rpgs. and the fire fight ensued. and people were keying their nets, thinking that they were talking on their intercom. they were talking on the troop net, so essentially, i lost command of my troop, because people were, you know, i was getting nothing but talk from other people. i kept saying, get off this net. finally, i couldn't do it. and i wanted to make sure that everyone was pointing in the right direction because i could see where the fire was coming from. i was a little bit farther back. so i jumped off my vehicle with an m-16 filled with tracers. nothing but tracers. and my platoon leaders and i had this deal where i said, if i can't communicate with you and you see people firing nothing but tracers, that's me. shoot that way.
okay? so, i jumped off, and when i was running over to get to a position where i could start shooting tracers, my rifle got knocked out of my hand. i said, what the heck was that? i don't remember dropping my rifle. so i picked it up, kept on with the mission, and started firing tracers and everybody picked up the message and all started shooting in the right place and the fire fight was over in perhaps five minutes. we killed everybody inside that woodline. and so then, on the way back, i'm walking up the hill, and first of all, i helped pick up sergeant gibbons, you know, i told you that story already. >> right. >> i'm walking up the hill and there's another one of my troopers who was a maintenance guy who had gotten hit in the arm by an rpg and had a huge hole in his left arm. snam was spec 4 friar.
and he was up on the hill where we were having medivacs, but all the medics were down there working on the troops so i stopped to see what i could do for him and he said, captain carlson, i can't stand the pain, you got to give me some morphine. i'm not allowed to carry morphine. he said, you got to do something. so i hit him as hard as i could. bam, right in the side of the jaw and i knocked him out. i also broke these two knuckles, which are still broken. they look a little different. but so he was out. and then they -- in fact, i carried him to the helicopter and put him on the medivac, and at that point in time, i suddenly realized that there was something going on with my left arm. it didn't feel right. and so i looked down, rolled up my sleeves, and i had been shot. what had knocked my rifle out was my rifle was hit by an ak-47 round, and that ricochetted into my arm and boom, i dropped the rifle.
but i didn't know that. i was pumping so much adrenaline that when i finally got to the point, i said, hey, any medic around here? oh my god, the captain's been hit. they pulled the bullet out and dressed the wound and they said, we have to send you back to the hospital because you may have broken a bone but it's not a life threatening wound. i said, put me on some damn helicopter, i want to be back here soon at night. this night. and they did. they looked at me and they said, no broken bones, they put a better surgical wrap on it. i was back in command. the next day, the mission was to take people down and go through, again, this time not being ambushed in the middle of the -- just before it's dark, go down and do some dismounted patrols. so i put out three patrols, all infantry guys. i was the only ranger in the company.
the cavalry troop. so i said, i think i'm supposed to be at least in one of these patrols, just to make sure that the things don't go bad. just before -- you know, and i've got -- i'm making guys jump up and down, make sure they don't make any noise and everybody has their faces blackened and we're doing ranger stuff. yeah. and so, at that point in time, a helicopter comes in and two guys from cbs news jump out wearing hawaiian shirts, and one of them has this big camera on his shoulder. and i said, what do you want? and he said, we want to go with you on a patrol. i said, i don't think so. and the public affairs officer from the division said, yeah, you got to let them do that, capital. guys from cbs news, walter cronkite, remember him? and i said, you got to let them come with you. but just make sure that they're protected. i said, all right. here's what i want you to do. reporter, you be here, cameraman, you be farther back. i don't want to hear a word from you.
take the pictures you need to take and if you need to talk to me, come up and whisper to me, but we're going down there, and i don't know what we're going to find. there may be fire coming back. so, we go down and we're -- we're actually walking in a stream bed, because, you know, you don't walk on trails, and there were trails in there because that's where the north vietnamese had been. and we're following wire, chinese wire, and i have with me a north vietnamese defector called a pit carson scout. >> right. >> and he's a former major, and we come to a bend in the stream bed and he said, careful. could be ambush around the side. so i said, okay. he said, maybe you put men up on the hill. so i pointed to one of the machine gunners and his assistant, and i said, you guys climb out, go up there and tell me when you're ready because we're going to go around and hill and if we start taking
fire, i want you to blow away anything that does that. these guys got out of the stream bed and started climbing up the hill and the cameraman in the hawaiian shirt says, hold on. i didn't get that. as loud as he could. and i turned around, and i said, get that guy up here. and he came up. i said, what did you just do? he said, i had to get the shot. these guys were climbing -- i said, did i tell you to keep quiet or not? he said, yes, but i've got a job to do too. i said, if you to that one more time, i personally will shoot you, and it won't be pleasant. it will be pleasant for me, but it won't be pleasant for you. so he was very quiet at that point in time. at the end of this patrol, we had found mountains of north vietnamese equipment, lots of blood trails, lots of ammunition, lots of weapons, and my guys are walking around smiling and picking up aks and, you know, skss and north vietnamese pistols, and so we're doing, you know, the kind of a battlefield check, and the guy from cbs news is talking to his camera and he said, these
soldiers are tired, and they're hungry, and they've been out here for months on end, and they don't know why they're here. they don't know -- and i said, cut the camera off. i said, what are you talking about? look around. these guys are delighted at what we just did. and all we took was, you know, a couple of casualties up on the hill, but look at what we did to the north vietnamese army. he said, captain, you don't understand. if i want this to show up on cbs news, walter cronkite does not want the american army to look good so i have to say this stuff i'm saying at the end even though i may or may not believe it and my dad, he was still on active duty, and he saw -- no, he wasn't active duty anymore, but he saw that on cbs news and got in touch with me by going into the pentagon and reaching me by radio and said, this is big swede 6, do you know who i am. i said, yeah. that is my dad.
yes, i do. he said, what the hell's going on with your unit? it looks like they're about to mutiny. i said, dad, that was cbs news. here was the battle count. 300 of those guys got killed. i lost one soldier killed and five soldiers wounded and i was slightly wounded. he said you okay? i said, i'm fine. but don't believe anything that you see on cbs news. >> so that's -- that goes back to what you were talking about with your professor when you were -- >> oh yeah. all these guys -- all the dead guys were in north vietnamese uniforms. all these were north vietnamese ammo and equipment, some tricom stuff too. there wasn't any question about who it was and what uniforms they were wearing. >> wow. okay. so, that's the story about how you got wounded. >> yeah. >> that time. all right. >> that was how i got wounded the first time. >> oh. how about the second time? >> second time was next day. >> oh my goodness. >> next day, we were told to pull out and go join up with the
35 cavalry for a new mission. and so i got all my guys together, but we had vehicles that were -- and i, like i said, the major was the guy in charge -- no, he was the operations officer, but then lonesome end, carpenter from west point was the commander of the third of the fifth cavalry at that time as i recall. i don't remember his first name. carpenter. but he was a lonesome end. so i figured these are two guys who really know what they're doing. and on the way out of our battle position, i did not lead with my track because, although i believe the commander should lead from the front, they should not be the very first vehicle. target's too -- so, i rode on the back of a tank. i was sitting in the bustle rank. i had an extra radio with me so i could communicate with the battalion headquarters and i was the one, two, three -- i was the third vehicle, you know, in line.
we had three tanks. i was on the third vehicle. the north vietnamese command detonated a mine underneath my tank because they saw there was an extra radio, extra guy riding on top, and so all i remember -- the bomb i was told later was a 250-pound air force bomb that had not exploded and they turned it into an ied and command detonated it and they were looking for the right vehicle and so they blew my tank to shreds. here's what i was told afterwards. i flew up in the air about 30 feet and landed on my back and there was blood coming out of every orifice of my body, places where i never knew blood could come out of. and i was unconscious. and nick was flying in a helicopter above the battle, watching all of this, and he saw that i was down. he didn't know who i was at the time, but nick never knew me,
but i knew him. he landed his helicopter and they loaded me in within three minutes of actually being blown up and they took me to bravo med, third marine division, and i woke up on an x-ray table with a round-eyed nurse cleaning me up from places i didn't think she was supposed to be cleaning me up from. and the doctor came over and he said to me, and all i could hear was -- and he said, oh, he can't hear anything. so he wrote a note and he said, your back is not broken. but you'll pay for this in future years. future years are here. and so now i can't walk more than about a mile before i -- because i now have scoliosis, a crooked spine. i said, where did i get that from? i said, you can't get into west point with scoliosis. it's a disqualifying effect. and they said, you know, disqualifying, whatever it is. and they said, you probably got
it when you got blown up. and of course my ears are pretty clear where this came from and so at any rate, i continued on and finished a 30-year career with hearing aids and with a bad back, and i'm now being nicely compensated by the veterans administration, but i was wounded twice in two days. by the way, i did not get a second purple heart, because no medic ever treated me in my unit. nick came down, they put me on board, they took me to bravo med, and the marine corps destroyed all their medical records five years ago, all their vietnam medical records, gone. so they have no proof that i was wounded in their facility because they didn't admit me. they said, put this guy in a jeep and take him back to his lz nancy. he's going to have to be on bedrest for at least three weeks and he can't hear anything. so i was out of command and taken down to nancy, laying in
bed. when my troop came back in, i said, put me in my jeep and take me to the gate and i stood up as best i could and saluted them as they came in. >> wow. that's a good -- i bet they were glad to see you. >> they were glad to see that i was still standing up. i was glad to see them too. but i couldn't hear anything for a very long period of time until i finally got hearing aids. >> sure. what happened to the rest of the crew on that tank? >> the platoon sergeant was wounded. he stayed inside the vehicle and so he received shrapnel wounds. the driver was medivac'd, badly wounded, and he was medivac'd. i don't think anything happened to the gunner or the loader. other than that, my rule was, you don't lead from the rear. they got to see, if we're going through mine fields, they got to
see me up in front somewhere, not in the first vehicle, but they got to see me up front somewhere because i got to take the risk to show them that it's worth taking. >> right. wow. so, what did you do after the army? after you retired, you retired as a colonel. >> yeah. i got a call one day. i was professor of strategy at the national war college. so, you're teaching not just army guys, army, navy, air force, marine, coast guard, fbi, treasury department, all these -- and civilians who also go to the national war college. and so i was one of their professors of strategy. i'm one of the guys who took them to gettysburg and talked about the leadership lessons of gettysburg. the air force guys said, what would have happened if lee had a b-52? i said, yeah, thanks, colonel. thanks for your comment. but i really enjoyed that job. but then i got a call one day from jack jacobs, gold friend from the social department,
medal of honor winner. i said, how'd you get ahold of me? he said, i used to work there too. i said, where are you now? he said, i'm in london. i said, what do you do? he said i make a lot of money and have a lot of fun. i said, okay, what can i do to help you? he said, i've got these 14-year-olds who run this bank who know nothing about leadership and i've told them they need to read "infantry attacks" by rommel but i can't find it here except in a rare book room in london and they want 250 pounds for it. could you check around the war college and see if somebody had a copy of rommel's "infantry attacks" and would be willing to sell it to me for something less than $600 or whatever that was in pounds at the time. i said, sure, happy to. i look around and there's three people who i found in the war college who had a copy, none of whom were willing to part with it because they knew how rare it was. so i went to the pentagon,
little old lady in the pentagon that i knew for many years, and who ran the bookstore, and she said, rommel's "infantry attacks" was published in 1952. she said that from the top of her head. i said, yes, it is. do you have a copy of that? she said, i don't think so but let's go look in the storeroom. so she took me -- she took a flashlight and a duster and she took me up to the storeroom, which was on the top floor of the pentagon and it was one of those indiana jones storerooms, all this stuff is in there. she said, you wait here and i'll go see. and about 15 minutes later, she came back with a hard copy of rommel's "infantry attacks", 1952. and i said, how much am i going to have to pay for this? she said i have no idea. there is no bar code on it. we will have to check. she checked her computer and said $4.50. so, i put it in an $18 fedex
envelope and i sent it to jack, and he said, you know, he called me up a couple days later and he said, i don't know how you did that, man, but they've asked me who is this guy and how can we get him to come and work for us? and i said, work for who? bankers trust. i said, jack, i'm still in the army. he said, retire. it's time to retire. and i said, well, i don't have a resume. and he said, get a resume by tomorrow. and send it over here. they want to hire you. they just want to see the resume. so they called me up and said, you know, we'd like to extend this offer to you. and so i said, okay. i'll do that. and took off my uniform, retired at fort meyer in a ceremony. my kids and my wife were able to attend, and i went back and my brother called up. he had retired earlier, and he said, when you took off your uniform for the last time and you were hanging it up, did you sit there and think about all that meant to you, all the -- what all those ribbons stood for
and all the stuff that you had hanging on your uniform? and i said, gunner, that's his name -- i said, gunner, i didn't have time to think about anything. i was packing to go to new york the next day. i had to be in new york the next day. the bank gave me an apartment in new york. i stayed there for four months learning the ropes. i had to learn how to be a broker-dealer. i had to get my license and all that. i did all that. then my boss says, pack your stuff, we're going to london tomorrow, and i said, how long are we going to stay? he said, doesn't matter, we only take hang-up bags. so i packed as much stuff as i could fit into a hang-up bag and i went to london and didn't come back for a year. >> wow. >> but in london, he said -- i said, what am i supposed to do here? i didn't bring enough shirts. he said, aren't we paying you enough? go to savill row and get some decent clothing, buy expensive ties and start looking like a
banker because the first rule of banking is, if you want people's money, you have to look like you don't need it. so i did all that and spent a lot of money doing it but again, they were paying me a lot of money, and a lot of bonuses as well. so one night, in london, he said, hey, ken, we're going to have dinner with thompson electronics tonight. the cfo and the ceo, and we've got a lot of money with them. they've got a lot of money with us and so we're doing it tonight and i want you to meet me the heathrow in about three hours. i said, where are we doing this? he said, in paris, of course. we flew paris, got picked up by a limousine, went down to a four star michelin restaurant. i think there's like two of them on the world. on the left bank. and came in and sat down with these guys, and they brought the wine list and i knew my way around german wine lists because i had been in europe for six
years, and so this guy, my boss says, andrew, he says, order the wines for us and i said, what do you want? he said, well, i want to start with champagne and then i want a wine to go with the fish dish and then a red and a white to go with the main course and then, you know, some -- something for the end, some sort of cognac or whatever and some cigars. so i had learned enough about wine lists, i asked somebody at bankers trust, how do you do this? it was a 47-page wine list. they said, first of all, do not order the cheapest wine or won't do business with you. don't order the most expensive, they'll think you're an idiot. go about three quarters of the way up the price list and start looking for stuff that you recognize. i did. and so i started recognizing stuff, and so i ordered all these wines and the french guys who spoke fluent english said, mon colonel, andrew, you've got yourself a winner. and i said, well, thank you very much.
very good choices for the wines. and then after a few minutes, one of them said, next to us in this table right here, isn't that dr. henry kissinger? and i looked over and i said, yeah, it is. would you like to meet him? they said, you know him? i said, i briefed him a couple times. and they said, we would be so honored to meet dr. kissinger. so i go over and i said, dr. kissinger, colonel ken carlson, united states army, you may remember me from when you came to visit the school of advanced military studies and you talked to us when we were in washington. he said, yes, do, ken. what are you doing now? are you still in the army? i said, no, i'm a banker. he said, congratulations. i said i'm here with thompson electronics and they would like to meet you. can they come over and shake your hand? he said, absolutely not. i said, i'm sorry, i didn't mean to interrupt. he said, no, no, i will come to them. so henry kissinger gets up, comes over, sits down, and chats these guys up for the better
part of five to ten minutes, signs their menus, and tells them how lucky they are to be able to deal with a guy with the integrity of a former military officer. >> wow. >> you know, i'm sitting there going -- and my boss is -- he's drooling. so at the end of this thing, the bill came for the four of us, $1,500. and you know, i said -- well, i didn't say anything, signed -- i didn't have a visa. i didn't have an american express card yet so i signed a visa card that i was sharing with me wife and i had to call her long distance and say, i just put $1,500 on the visa card. you may be concerned. but on the way out, i said, am i going to get in trouble for this? four of us for $1,500. he said, you're not in kansas anymore, ken. he said, you're in the banking world now. we spend money like this all the time. you're not going to have any trouble with this on your expense account but there's one thing you missed while you were trying to figure out how to sign your name and your hand was
shaking. he said, there's one thing you missed. they gave us an envelope. they gave us another $100 million to manage for them. he said, your $1,500 are going to be lost in the rounding errors, but you are going to get a big bonus for what you did tonight for introducing them to henry kissinger and ordering in french from the wine list and all that sort of thing. and i said, i'm not in kansas anymore. >> wow. >> so i had some great experiences with bankers trust, and then they eventually dissolved my entire division when they were starting to become deutsche bank. they just got rid of their international investment, because deutsche bank already had that. they didn't need to duplicate that in new york. so i went to work for a company called sei investments which was a mutual fund company in pennsylvania, and my -- i had a territory coast to coast, all medical establishments which had major investment pools. my job was to go sell them the idea of working alongside of
sei, which would invest their money for them and their 401(k) funds and other retirement instruments. i did that for a few years. three or four years, and then i was in this big car accident. i got hit by a truck from behind, 18-wheeler, drove me into the car in front of me. i had a rental buick that became a rental volkswagen, and i was, you know, guy came up from the truck and he said, are you okay? and i couldn't feel anything on the left side of my body. i said, i don't think so. so, turned out there was a fire station right across the street. they came out with their ambulance, took me to the hospital and i stayed in the hospital for about a week, and then went back to business, but i could no longer lift my bag above my head to put it in the overhead bin, and i was taking lots and lots of drugs for all the pain that i had, so finally they said they had to let me go because i couldn't do the job any longer, and i said, fine, because i had two disability policies with them and i was also receiving workers
compensation, and the guy who was in the truck had, you know, he had big insurance, and then usaa, i had uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. he didn't have enough coverage so i ended up with a lot of money out of that accident. >> wow. >> and then i was fully retired at that point in time. >> but you probably didn't need that on your back. >> no. yeah and that's further complicated being -- having a back injury. >> right. >> but you know what? then i became a cancer patient, and i -- >> you survived that. >> and i survived that. and it is now 2015, and i'm still talking. >> thank god for that. >> and i'm talking to you people. >> but that is -- that is an incredible story. did anything -- any of the things you learned at west point or in the army help you in your business? >> absolutely. absolutely. >> okay. >> absolutely. first of all, you better be honest. there's a lot of people in business who are less than honest. you need to tell people the downside as well as the upside. if you only tell them the upside
and things go wrong, they'll never do business with you again. and so, i made sure that all the people who were my clients understood, you know, don't react to every single move of the market. that's a stupid way of investing. but if we've got you out of balance, we're going to get you back in balance by increasing over here and decreasing over here. but we're looking out -- we're trying to look out for your investments, not from our perspective, because we can make money by overtrading you. we don't want to do that. so, i had the trust of everybody who, you know, and i had lots and lots of money under our management. but nobody ever said, you know, we're not comfortable because i was the guy that they were talking to. >> okay. so, the integrity you -- >> absolutely. >> is part of the military. >> absolutely. and of course the ability to take charge when you need to and the ability to see the difference between right and wrong and the ability to plan ahead. all things that you learn when you're a cadet and you actually
practice when you're a military officer. they are all extremely important in business. >> wow. well, sir, this has been a fabulous interview. is there anything that i haven't asked you that you'd like to say? that i haven't asked you that you'd like to say? >> go ahead. >> what does west point mean to you? >> i, right now, lead a group of 26 of my classmates. we come up here and we have come up here 14 times now to help teach the professional military ethic to cadets now called the cadet military character program. >> right. >> we've been doing that since the class of 2016. we were plebes, we were the last to talk to them as plebes. the opportunity to come back to west point and give back for all that west point has given to us is an amazing one. every time i do this i take pictures of the class and i publish them in the class newsletter and more people say that looks like a mini reunion,
and so now i've got a much larger group than either 67 or 68 or 63 had and so we've got almost 30 people that come up here at their own expense because it is so important to pass on the values that were given to us that we have tried to live for 30 or 40 years. for us now it's almost 50. >> right. >> so i -- i am -- i just can't tell you how much west point means to me both having been here, having been on the faculty here and having an opportunity to talk to cadets and even now at our 50th, as we approach our 50th year, people say -- people sometimes ask me, where is west point, and i say, it's 55 miles north of new york city and 75 years ago. what's that mean? there's tradition there that continues to move forward, but it is unlike any other place you've ever been. there are people out there who care about each other.
they care about what they're doing. they know that they are going to be leaders of character and they're trying to develop their character, and this is the place to do it. it's the finest leadership school in the military. maybe ranger school is a close second. ranger school will put you through the wringer to show you what you can do. ranger school, by the way, also, because i never commanded a cavalry troupe, when i first showed up they said does this captain know anything? but they looked at my uniform and i had a set of airborne wings and an airborne patch and they said this guy knows what he's doing. it starts by coming to west point, and i was thinking when they were making fun of ben carson for saying i've got a full scholarship. i had a class dinner the other night up in cornwall and we had 35 people at the class dinner, and i stood up at the beginning and said my name is ken carson
and 50 years ago i had a full scholarship to west point. it cracked them up and they got it and they're well up on the news to know what that mean, but it really is one of the seminal moments of my life is to come -- walk through here. people say what's the best view you ever saw in the west point? in the rear-view mirror because i was anxious to get out, but once i knew all of the things that i knew i wanted to go out and do it and so that's why i wanted to go into the army and that's why i wanted to go to berlin and i was happy to be in vietnam and i would have extended in vietnam had i not been wounded. i'm a blessed man. >> yes, sir. >> blessed man and surviving all of the stuff that i've survived since then. so anyway, that's my story and i'm sticking to it. >> that's a wonderful story. >> thank you so much. >> all right. >> here's what's coming up, next it's another west point interview. this time with henry thomas who
served as a medic in vietnam before becoming a founder of the student nonviolent coordinating committee, and then a conversation with katherine westmoreland the widow of general william westmoreland and later a west point interview with kenneth karlsson. he talks about his experience as a west point cadet, his vietnam war service and his years teaching at military colleges. join us tonight for american history tv in prime time. we'll hear oral histories from the vietnam war from veterans and their spouses. american history tv is in prime time beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span3. and tonight on c-span2 it's book tv in prime time with the focus on the digital world. brian deer talks about the impact of early computer programs on modern technology in his book the friendly orange glow. silicon valley historian leslie berlin describes a growth of personal computing, video games and bio technology in her book troublemakers, and former "new
york times tech columnist noll cohen in his book the know it alls. book tv all this week in prime time on c-span2. and tonight on our companion network c-span former housing and urban development secretary julian castro at an event organized by the young democrats of new hampshire. mr. castro who served under president obama said he's considering a presidential run in 2020 and you can see his comments tonight starting at 8:00 eastern on c-span. the c-span bus is traveling across the country in our 50 capitals tour. we recently stopped in little rock, arkansas, asking folks what's the most important issue in their state. >> an issue that's kind important in arkansas right now is there is a huge hispanic population in the high schools in the area especially northern arkansas, so what we see especially here is that a lot of the hispanics aren't coming and
we have this thing called the live program and all it does is we want for all high school students to know that they can come to college. so for me it's really important that not only hispanics, but everyone has that opportunity to know and regardless of whether i have daca or undocumentation or whatever circumstances you may be like you can come to college. so that's kind of important right now for arkansas. >> the issue that's important for me in arkansas is animal welfare. i'm in animal rescue and we deal with a lot of abuse and neglect, and we don't have law enforcement backing and we have laws in arkansas and they're not very strict so it's a big issue for us because we deal with the animals and we see what they go through and we don't have any place for these animals to go. we don't have the funding for them and people are not held accountable for the abuse they inflict on animals, so that's a big issue for me is just strkter
laws and more enforcement of those laws and backing shelters to hold people accountable for what they do. >> i really don't want anybody in government doing much of anything. i believe in the states being experimental units for the government and try different things and create different things and see how they work because most ones if they don't work out very well it is very hard on the whole country, and i believe that's what the founders wanted us to do is to use the states. >> one of the most important issues, i think, for citizens of little rock and the state of arka