tv Oral Histories Katherine Westmoreland West Point Interview CSPAN February 22, 2018 12:02am-1:08am EST
vietnam from 1964 to '68. then kenneth carlson, a combat veteran who grew up in a military family and later taught at a military academy. and later, henry "hank" thomas, a combat medic, civil rights activist and one of the 13 founding freedom riders. katherine westmoreland, wife of u.s. army general william westmoreland who commanded u.s. forces in vietnam talked about her life as a military daughter, sister and spouse. she recounted her time living in vietnam and serving as a red cross nurse's aide during the war and recalled hosting presidents and first ladys as well as her friendship with bob and dolores hope. this interview is just over an hour. >> good evening, ma'am. today is the 1st of october, 2016, and we're in the west point center for oral history, and i'm here with katherine
stephens van deusen westmoreland, but you go by kitsy. >> right. that's right. >> ma'am, could you please 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. i know 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 -- 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 posts were you on when you grew up? >> well, i was born at princeton. new jersey. the followers at princeton for six years. and when he married my mother, my 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. and i guess that was it. and i met my husband. >> okay. >> again. >> well, we'll get to that in a second, ma'am, but one of the questions i always ask people who lived 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. and we went to be went to a movie and suddenly we were told, and we had just left hawaii, so
it was, so really it was just an unbelievable moment in one's life. >> sure. 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 -- we were -- we were stationed up in schofield and they came over the pass. and i think my father was very surprised. 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. >> long time. >> can you describe your childhood or adolescent impression of what west point was? >> well, it was 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. but it was just something my 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 -- he played polo here and 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 15 or 16. >> 15 or 16? wow. what did it seem like to you back then. >> it was wonderful. i stayed with a classmate of my father's. he and his wife were stationed here. and i was scared to death. and 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. >> and you must have gone to dances at the hall then? >> we did. and you first went to a movie and then of course if you got a coke or anything, you paid for it.
there was no bus service, no cars and you learned 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. >> well, we were -- we were stationed at fort sill. and i got my school bus, which was an old army -- army ambulance. >> oh, okay. >> and it was drawn by two mules. >> how about that. >> and it stopped in front of west's boq. and he came out, he had just
graduated from west point and he was so handsome. so that's when i met him. i was 9. >> okay. that was at fort sill? >> mmm-hmm. >> but then you met him again later when you were a student at unc? >> no. >> no? >> i met him again in hawaii. >> okay. >> where i had a very beautiful 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. >> mmm-hmm. >> and then of course the war came along. >> world war ii? >> yeah. >> okay. and he was in the european theater. >> he was in -- went into casablanca, into africa and then sicily and then england and --
>> france and germany. >> yeah. >> okay. >> so he didn't have time to have many girlfriends. so i was at my grandmother's and i called him up. >> okay. and this is after the war? >> uh-huh. >> okay. and tell me a little bit about that. >> well, i -- i called him -- i just called fort bragg to see if he were there. i didn't even know he was there or not. and they connected me. he was commanding the 504 then. >> right. >> and the aide said, it wasn't an aide, it was some lieutenant. anyway, he answered the phone and -- west answered and he said, kitsy, kitsy van dueser,
are you a big girl yet? i said yes. he said, well, let's have dinner tonight. we went to general gavin's for dinner. >> how about that. >> we were married november -- i guess four, five months later. >> wow. that's nice. tell me -- describe your wedding for in. -- 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 -- 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. >> and 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? >> no, i wore my great grandmother's on the van deusen side. >> oh, my goodness. you said the dress had long sleeves. >> long sleeves, very covered and a long train. >> that must have been beautiful. >> it was. it was pretty. >> and 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 west 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, and then when the army downsized they reduced everybody? >> he became lieutenant colonel for just a little while. >> right. >> and then became a currently 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 commander of the 504th then pretty soon after that he was 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 just was -- i was so young. i was just 20. and i just thought everybody liked me. >> yeah. >> and i was much too young to be a colonel's wife. but as i say, i just sort of didn't take it that seriously. >> he would have been a young colonel, too. >> and he was young. >> because of the war accelerating everybody. did you enjoy bragg? >> oh, yeah. >> then during the korean war, your husband commanded the 187th infantry regiment as a brigadier general. >> well, he was a colonel when he went over. >> okay. 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 infantry badge because generals couldn't wear it, or something like that. >> right. >> and west was a colonel when he went 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 or did you have to go? >> 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. and so i stayed there. then i was able to go to japan. >> right.
>> and as soon as i got there, then the chinese came in, i guess it was, and the 187th went back to korea. >> right. 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 ru rustic. i mean, the honey buckets still went up and down the street. in fact, west landed in a field one time that had just been spread. >> oh, no. >> oh, yes. >> the fertilizer for the field, right? >> 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? >> oh, he loved -- 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, the -- you had -- you had gone through the war with, i hate the japanese and all that, but this was before the 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 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 then to harvard business school. >> yeah. >> what were these experiences
like for your family? >> well, west was lucky. you were born. and we were living in a very -- in park fairfax, which had no air conditioning and tiny little apartment. and we had an older -- stevie, our oldest child, and then i had rip and west promptly left for harvard. >> okay. >> and he was gone. but i -- you went up to graduation. >> now, was harvard -- that was an unaccompanied tour for him? >> well, he just went up. >> it was a pretty short tour, like three months? >> i think it was three or four months, something like that. >> so you were at home with two children? >> i was at home in this apartment. 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. and i had margaret. so they were -- i had two babies at the time. >> okay. >> so i don't think i was a very good wife to -- i forget what his job was called. i don't know. >> mmm-hmm. but then after that, after leaving the northern virginia area, he -- general westmoreland commanded the 101st airborne division from '58 to '60, then from '60 to '63 he was the superintendant here at west point, from '63 to '64 he commanded 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. >> mmm-hmm. >> 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? fort campbell was -- because you had to make your own fun. >> right. >> and i even got the regimental commanders to dress in tutus. >> oh, yes. that sounds like a good story. >> and boots. >> they didn't jump out of a plane like that, did they? >> no, but we did a charity thing for -- and the regimental commanders had their boots on and tutus. >> oh, 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,
right? >> we lived in the log house, and the commanding officer's house was way off by itself. >> right. >> and i had two young children and stevie and they would have been miserable, you know, down there. so we moved up there. >> right. >> and loved it. >> mmm-hmm. 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 the whole house would fall down and god would say, you are kitsy van deusen, you do not belong here. but i was -- i had young children and i was -- i was 31 or 32 i think at the time. and i -- 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 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. i went to all of the -- i went to the swimming and the wrestling and track and, you know, and football, of course. >> right. >> and baseball. i loved it all. the kids would go with me sometimes and sometimes they'd say no, but -- >> what were your favorite activities here? >> you know, i loved wrestling, can you believe it? but i loved swimming and -- well, i love football, of course and i loved baseball, but i
loved -- i just love sports. >> right. and i imagine that you went to all the formal events, right? >> yes. >> so all the different dances and that sort of thing. >> not all of them, no. >> yeah. tell me about entertaining at quarters 100. >> oh, well, you could seat ten on either side, and so it would be ten -- 20. >> the table? >> at the big table. >> right. >> and we had wonderful people come. i mean, well, just sincerely interesting, fascinating people. and then of course we had the cadets. and that was like a hell dinner. you know, i would pick up my spoon and they would pick up their spoon.
and, 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? >> well, of course president johnson came. 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. i mean, you went under -- didn't -- >> the bleachers. >> under the -- and then when we had a garden luncheon, 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. and 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 girls, but, no, can't control him now. >> and eisenhower visited as well, correct? >> yes, he did. >> and bradley, too? >> bradley. >> and what were those -- what were they like? >> well, and macarthur. it's something about being the superintendant, i think, that they all -- if they've been a cadet, they kind of will -- macarthur 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 mamey was a very good friend and jean macarthur was a lovely friend. >> you told me earlier they were all very nice ladies and they'd call you and visit and everything. >> oh, yes. when west 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 -- >> and you frequently had mrs. eisenhower come visit, right? >> well, she loved to come because her sister had a one bedroom and she had secret service. >> right. >> so any time she came to washington, she always stayed with us. >> that's nice. >> yeah. >> and she couldn't believe --
rip had her rose bathroom and she couldn't believe the room. i mean, it was a boy's room. >> sure. now, general macarthur stayed there the night before he gave his duty, honor, country speech. >> no. >> no? >> he came and mhis -- came up and then there was the review. then we took what was the ladies room and turned it over to jean and general macarthur. i forget what i wanted -- i think just water with no ice or something, you know, like that. 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. now, your husband commanded in vietnam for over four years. starting in january of 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. >> 13 months. >> okay. >> and it was -- oh, dear. they, you know, they went to school on a -- early in the morning on a school bus with the
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 that went to school and then when they got to school -- we had only vietnamese guards, but the hospital and the school had mps. but we had vietnamese guards. and so did west. >> 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. >> sure. >> 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 -- you all were -- there wasn't really a bad cookie that i know of in the crowd, and they had -- you all had a really good time. >> mmm-hmm. >> unfortunately, they saw -- 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 that he had ordered some wood after that, right?
to shore it up. >> to kind of hold it up. >> oh, my goodness. >> and they all had sores because, oh, dear. >> now, how was the vietnamese culture? >> it's lovely. they are a beautiful people. 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 -- o 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 or? >> well, one time i was in a huey and we got shot at, but
mostly i went in an airplane. >> okay. all right. now how about your daughters in vietnam, how were they? >> stevie was -- had a team club and margaret had a best friend that they had kind of a compound, and so the children came to our house or to -- what would you say? i mean, you all -- >> stevie had the honda '50s and the cheerleaders. >> the cheerleaders. >> and they were just wild teenagers is what they were. >> okay. >> they ran around -- >> all the -- then she was in love with carl. >> carl. >> and all the vietnamese children, there were 32 of them in the back. >> 30? >> uh-huh. >> wow. >> they would go in and watch her court.
poor stevie didn't realize it but all of these little -- didn't you go watch her court with carl? >> yeah, well. yeah. >> yeah, a little bit. >> they had the red room and they were listening to the beatles. >> they painted this room this horrible color red and black, but anyway, it kept them busy. >> right. 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 and then i became
a nurse's aide in -- >> did you get an award for your red cross work? >> i got the harriman award, which was an outstanding volunteer of the year. >> wow. that's wonderful. >> i was sure proud of that. >> so what was it like working with 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. and 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 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
was -- bob -- they were all there and the bomb, you remember they bombed -- >> right. what year was this? >> when was it? i can't remember. >> the rex hotel. >> yeah, they bombed the rex and the other. there was a boq that they bombed. and, you know, it was awful because evidently presents just went out the window, but what we did was we emptied out the hospital in town and brought them to my hospital and then we could put the wounded in the hospital. >> okay. and so -- >> i know that doesn't make sense. >> no, so you would bring some of the -- you'd bring up to 30 patient -- >> we brought 30 patients.
>> to the guest house to free up more 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. >> yeah. >> what was that like? >> well, they were -- that's what i did. >> yeah. >> 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 y, u went out. >> now, what was it like having the wounded soldiers in your guest house? >> well, it was christmas eve
and the -- 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. we had three trees wired, and they were all scrawny, you know? >> sure. >> but, anyway, we had a christmas tree. and then the -- well, it, you know, kind of changed. we didn't have christmas eve dinner. >> right. >> and it 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 really was my very dearest friend after we first -- we
just, i don't know, you 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. and he was going -- coming in his car and he forgot his, what did he call them? >> cue cards. >> mmm-hmm. there were cards that he used. there was a name for them. but he forgot them. and he said -- they said, oh, well, we'll bring them to you, mr. hope. and 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, now that's fortunate, huh? >> yeah. >> oh, my goodness. so how long did you -- you stayed in vietnam for 13 months. >> yeah. >> i guess that's '64 to '65. then 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. >> we went to a rental house and then i bought a house in hawaii. >> okay. >> and then they said i could go to the philippines. >> mmm-hmm. >> so -- >> and you didn't much care for the philippines? >> no. i probably should be very careful. >> okay. so what was it like in hawaii? >> well, we loved hawaii.
we really, i mean, we -- i worked in the -- 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 did air evac and worked in the air evac hospital and then i flew air evac. i would fly into saigon and spend a couple of days and then fly back. >> okay. >> with a plane load. >> mmm-hmm. now, does any one incident stick out in your mind about your -- the red cross work that you did? >> i guess -- i guess the one thing 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. and 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 were very close. i mean, they were bonding with this, and 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 sid, well -- and they came
into the hospital because they were badly -- we kept the badly wounded for a few days and then they were air evaced out. so i called west and told him the names and he called his surgeon, and i don't know. anyway, they ended up at walter reed. so i had seen them in vietnam and on the air evac plane and in the philippines. then west 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. >> 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. >> yeah. it's interesting. i was thinking about this as we were 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 you -- what you wanted to. i mean, i wanted to be -- i wanted to be with the 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 they would be infected. and you could -- it was just a
terrible odor. but 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. there was no infection at all. no smell. no -- and i turned to this special forces doctor and i said, i just don't understand this one. >> right. >> you know? and he said, well, if they've survived as children -- >> okay. >> then -- so we're almost maybe too clean with our children. >> right. so they've built up immunities? >> yeah. >> okay. now, as a red cross worker, were
you what they would call a donut dolly or was that a different? >> i was a nurse's aide. >> okay. all right. >> and at times, oh, during tet, gosh, i sewed up a couple of people and i think, oh, my god, what they must look like, but really, you know, they were just pouring in. >> mmm-hmm. was that the most difficult time for you during tet? >> yeah, i would say tet because they were -- they were flying in dirty, and, you know, they were just getting them out. >> right. now, 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 -- because the first thing you did was bathe them. and i was bathing this young
little -- he was black, young soldier, and he looked up at my name tag and he said, westmoreland. he said, are you any relation to the general? and i said, yes, honey, i'm his wife. he said, you know, ma'am, i've always wondered what generals' wives did when their husbands were overseas. >> wow. >> and that was -- i said, well, you -- i'm bathing you. >> that's nice. so that must have been quite an experience for you being over there. >> it was. it was -- it made me feel more useful. >> yeah. and i'm sure your husband
appreciated that as well. >> i don't know if he did or not. >> he was busy. >> yeah. so you really didn't spend a whole lot of time on the home front then, did you? you were constantly back and forth between vietnam and the philippines and hawaii. >> yeah. >> so what sort of sense did you get of the divisiveness within the nation at that time? >> well, you see, you really -- i didn't -- we didn't have television, particularly in the philippines, and i guess we realized it in hawaii some, but when we got to the philippines, you just had "the army times." we really didn't have television. and i guess we really didn't know it was so bad. >> so you were sort of insulated from that by being so connected to the war front?
>> yes. >> okay. shortly after your husband returned from vietnam, your brother, frederick van deusen, lieutenant colonel frederick van deusen who was commander of the 42nd infantry regiment was killed july 4th when his helicopter was shot down in the delta region. tell me how you learned about his death. >> parents in, gosh, four years, i guess. and, 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.
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 fayetteville where my parents were. and, of course, i hadn't seen my mother in i guess three or four years. and she was so happy to see me. and then i just shook my head. >> so she didn't know yet until you got there? >> no, no. >> but that must have been very difficult. >> well, and we drove around fayetteville because carolyn, my brother's wife, lived there. and i didn't know where she lived. and my brother didn't either. i mean, we just had an idea.
and we -- i said that we've got to tell his wife before, you know, 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 -- not there. she was in blacksburg, virginia. but my mother was, you know, just so happy. and then i remember i just shook my head. >> that must have been a rough, rough time dirks it was. >> -- for the family. i'm sorry. >> it was. so tell me a little bit about how your role as a commander's wife differed from post to post and assignment to assignment. was there anything different because you were a campbell and then you were at bragg and then washington and vietnam.
>> well, well, washington you kind of just existed. and then i had two babies. i had rip and margaret. and margaret was born when we were at ft. myer. and diddy taylor worked for max tailor, she was just wonderful to me. >> so this was in the late '50s? >> when were you born. >> mid. >> mid '54 and margaret was born in '55. >> all right. now, what was the hardest or most challenging day you experienced as an army wife? >> i guess to tell my parents my brother was killed. >> i can understand that. what was the best or most rewarding day you had as an army
wife? >> oh, i guess being here. >> okay. >> yeah. >> so west point has a special place for you? >> yeah, yeah. i guess that was. 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. >> right. it's a great place to be. >> now, husbands and wives formed 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 sounding board for things that were happening to him in his work and bounce ideas off you? >> yeah, but he never paid any attention. he was damn well going to do what he wanted to. >> sure. >> yeah, but, yes, we talked quite a bit.
>> that's important. well, the next question was going to be what was your favorite aye aye signment in the army. >> it's west point, yes. >> now, during your time in the army, events for army wives and wives clubs were a lot different than they are now. >> they sure are. >> can you describe some of those events to us? >> well, i remember this one. i never was good at makie ing a speech or anything like that. in fact, this is the first time i've ever done anything like this. and i'm doing it just because i didn't -- i didn't know i was -- >> well, i'm so glad you did. >> well, i think one of the funniest times i had was at ft.
campbe campbell. and i liked iced tea with lots of lemon and lots of sugar. and i was brand-new, being introduced. and i had put all 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 was going to do. >> sure. >> so everybody stopped talking. >> so it was the clanking of the spoon? >> they thought -- i looked up at this quiet group of -- but they started talking again. >> and now, at that time, the women would wear gloves and dress and hats. >> right. >> tell me a little bit about that. because this generation doesn't really understand. >> no. and i said to susan as we went
down holding on to the -- i said, you know, in my day, we wore gloves. and think of all the germs that we're getting going down this and in those days i had, when i was here, i had gloves always at the front door that i would grab when i went out. and it was -- you just dressed. but we -- we volunteered. i don't think any of the wives worked per se. >> right. >> 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,
make sure because you're going to be asked to volunteer. >> right. and volunteering was very important to you. >> it was. and i think in my day, it was whether you rode the school bus or spent time at the -- there 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. >> what did you do after your husband retired? >> oh my goodness, i guess we fought! 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. >> and so he said we -- i could go -- we would go to charleston. so we built a house there and loved it. >> charleston is beautiful. >> and it's beautiful. and i got very busy there. and west went around the country, talking for the vietnamese, yeah. >> i heard that he visited every state and talked to veterans in every state. >> he did. he did. >> so did he feel a -- tell me about how he felt a connection with -- >> well, he -- he felt that the
vietnam soldier and of course in those days, you just can't imagine what -- i mean, one man that i can't think of his name later became chief of staff. he was taken off 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. i mean, there were terrible things that happened. >> well, now, your father, your brothers, your husband 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 just so much a part of my life that -- what's that? >> so was there anything in new york city with the vietnam veterans? >> no, i don't think -- >> the march in 1985. >> oh, daddy, yes, he led that march. and he was very proud of that. he walked down -- was it fifth avenue? >> i don't know where it was. but it was broadway, i think. they gave themselves a march because no one else did. >> wow. >> yeah. >> my goodness.
>> now your necklace, mrs. pope gave that to you? >> yes. >> this is west's -- >> his class ring. >> and i was out visiting 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 hill. and dolores gave me this, which 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. and, but she always said she was 17 years older. and she always said i'm old enough to be your mother. and i would say that's going a little far. >> now, is there anything i haven't asked you that you want to say?
>> no. i have three wonderful children, and i think you all had a very good time growing up. we were -- we were lucky. we had a wonderful sergeant that eventually retired with us because he would not leave his boy. >> chris. >> and chris. we had really people that loved us and we loved them. and i mean sergeant walker. >> walker? >> and just special. >> to the army as a family? >> uh-huh, yeah. and they -- i think they were proud -- >> sergeant daniels. >> sergeant daniels was my head man here. and i was going to call him, but i think he's gone now. i talked to him the last time i
was up here, and he wasn't too well. >> yes. you certainly got to meet a lot of wonderful people. >> we did. we were so lucky. i think secretary rusk was one of my very favorite people. and, well, so many of them were 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 know it was a lot to get over for you to speak with us. and i'm certainly glad. >> you're a wonderful interviewer, and i thank you for your kindness. c-span's "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up thursday morning, former energy secretary ernst moniz discusses nuclear threats
facing the u.s. and the world. then the leadership institute's cabot phillips talks about conservatism and millennials. and issue 1's meredith mcgahey will discuss congressional ethics reform. be sure to washington c-span's "washington journal" live thursday morning. join the discussion. the alliance for health care holds a discussion on the change health care market. you can see it live at 9:00 a.m. eastern on c-span2. and on c-span, it's the first day of the political action network conference. our live coverage begins at 1035 a.m. with vice president pence addressing attendees. and later we hear from senator cruz, education secretary betsy devos and labor secretary alex acosta. see it live on c-span. c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, c-span was created as a
public service by america's cable television companies. and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. u.s. military academy graduate kenneth carlson talked about growing up in a military family, including his time as a teen in vietnam during the late 1950s. he also described his experiences as a west point cadet, has vietnam war service, his years teaching at military colleges, and the time when newt gingrich audited his class. the interview is produced by the west point center for oral history. it's an hour and 40 minutes. >> good afternoon.