tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Vietnam War at Home CSPAN May 6, 2018 6:28pm-7:59pm EDT
learn. cartoons are more popular than ever. of thesehe effect cartoon books, these graphic novels. people are willing to read graphic novels and willing to live in cartoons and are willing to use this as a vehicle to learn. i think that is how they should be used in the future. host: michael alexander kahn. the author of "what fools these mortals be! the story of puck." figure for joining us on american history tv -- thank you for joining us on american history tv. michael: thank you. >> interested in american history tv? join us. you can preview up coming programs, watch museum tours and archival films and more. american history tv on c-span.org/history.
>> next, we continue our series, 1968, america in turmoil with a look back on the vietnam war at home. the war was fought not only in the jungles of vietnam but on american streets. student marches and acts of civil disobedience dominated headlines. including the story of brothers .nd praised daniel and philip they seized and hundreds of draft cards. vietnam veterans returned home to a changed country. our guests are doug stanton, the author of the odyssey of echo company. and filmmaker lynn novick whose most recent project was the 10 part documentary "the vietnam war." war and specifically the war
in vietnam troubles all-america. it troubles young people more. the gap is greatest between college students and the rest of society. >> since the war in vietnam began to escalate in 1965, he started the growth of sts. >> arnold explains one reason for the spread of let -- radicalism. his audience is this club. >> if it wasn't for the vietnam war, people like myself whenever his level i have. it was the vietnam war that began the first conflict. >> the survey shows that six out colleges leavend in fighting was what her honor. only one fourth of the college students say the same. parentswo thirds of the and more than two thirds of the oncologist say we should fight
to contain common as him. only a minority of college students agree. a majority of the young in college or out say the war in vietnam is imperialism. only a minority of parents believe it is. both generations are aware of the way vietnam has torn america apart. think the problems of american you are going away until we solve the war in vietnam. this is one of the greater underlying problems on campuses. during world war ii, we believed in world war ii. we believed hitler's should be defeated. helplieved we should france and germany and italy. we believed we were fighting for the freedom of america. >> this is a great country, i really believe that. there is a cause women to die.
vietnam, i don't see any cause for anybody to die. >> i don't think any of the kids understand what the war is all about. i don't understand what the word is about myself. you hear speeches and talks but they always obeyed the direct point of why we are there. >> i suppose it goes right on back. you have to have a head of a family and community. you have to have a head of the nation. there has to be a certain amount of discipline. >> i wish we would get out, i really do. i am very much against anyone. no worries moral. i don't know, i don't think we should be in vietnam. >> i think we should go in there and fight them.
if we could stop it and especially after men in the service, you could see them take another viewpoint and most of the younger generation they have on there. my husband thought. this is the way i feel. >> i think united states to stop try to police the world. -- only integrity joining us now here in washington at the table is doug stanton, author of this book, the odyssey of echo company. this just came out. also joining us this morning is lynn novick who is a documentary filmmaker. recently or more particularly is the vietnam 10 part series. peggy for joining us. lynn: my pleasure.
paul: let's start with the year 1968. did most americans at home till the war was winnable? the polling shows that by the end of 1967 the country was pretty much evenly divided about whether we should have ever gone to the war in vietnam. the country never wanted to face the fact that the war was not winnable. there is a complicated question about if we should be there by 1968, the answer was 50% said no. do we want to lose the war? most people did not want to. there was certain inner conflict about that. the johnson administration tried so hard to convince the public that the war was going well that it was almost over, that we could see light at the end of the tunnel. a den of an uptick in support for the policy. after many years of casualties and no real progress, the public was definitely losing patience with the war by then.
paul: a somewhat similar question for doug. about the troops themselves, by the beginning of 68, did most u.s. soldiers feel the war was winnable? doug: i can speak about echo company. when they discover that lbj decided to not run for reelection, i know a number of them felt quite the trade. they thought we were winning this in the aftermath of ted in 68. why is he giving up on us? i feel that they by day, they might have been winning but in the long run, they did not feel that way. paul: what did this country look and feel and sound like at this point in 1968? 1968 you had the uprisings in detroit. you had martin luther king in washington d c and civil rights.
you also had kennedy's assassination. 's assassination. what was interesting was how so much of this penetrated the consciousness in the field. at least among the group that i talked with. it was like living into americans. america's -- in two americas. said thater cronkite the bloody experience of it on is to end in stalemate. do you think that was the turning point in american public support for the war? lynn: i don't think it was a turning point. i think he was reflecting a turn that already happened. as the polling shows, the country was already basically divided about the war and pretty clear that we should not have been there. unfolded, that carnage and
tok of progress was similar surprise and didn't know this would happen. it really shocked the country. cronkite is not leading anything, he is really reflecting where the country was at this point. were sort ofrts shocking and the cottage was available that the public had not been used to seeing. the readings of all the news broadcasts throughout the month of january into february refused. the public was really paying attention in a way that they had maybe not before. cronkite did take a risk in putting himself out there in a way that he had before to say his personal opinion. ofwas the initial reporter this before that. he had seen what is happening and came back and this said the war is a stalemate. we can keep going but we will never achieve the goal but our government had told us that we
had been working toward it. that really resonated with the public at that time. , would you like to add to that? i completely agree. there's that sense of dislocation between what the guys in the field were feeling on a day-to-day basis. that is still resonating with us today. here is a short piece of tape from president johnson, especially concerned about support for the war on the home front. this was march 23, 1968. that was a month after the walter kwok that report. >> i have to find -- walter cronkite report. >> if we don't find it would to turn this around, we will be in
trouble. to 41. 44 that happened in three weeks. publicity has been dead, we lost everything, we didn't know it would happen. and theit is out present is not with us. andave to turn it around maybe they can testify a little bit, made it takes a little approach. to.ave i have 140 people here who say they will not support is now. -- us now. i still have russell and don't know if we would have them --
we have to find something to put these people in the whole and make them do that. we haven't got them on that yet. after the pause, we proved that we have a long ride. we haven't had anything for a long time. you have to give them hamburgers. reflection on that, lynn? onn: there is a lot to chew there, he is all over the place in a way. i think he is struggling with what to do. the leaders ofre the establishment. escort thejohnson to war in 1965. they said you have to negotiate a settlement, this is not in our national interest and we're not going to win. that is what tips him into the place he is about to go to.
is that he is not going to run, he is going to step away and say that we are going to fight a negotiated settlement. a negotiated settlement is a living south vietnam to fight on its own and getting out of there, whatever happens. it doesn't mean surrender but it doesn't mean when either. you do not want to be the first president to lose a war. he thought it would be political suicide for himself. i think what is interesting is that he says the press lies, they are all lies. they were trying to find a way to do a pr thing. he was try to get reports back on his side. that goes back to the second world war when there was a sense that the journalists, the press and military were on the same team and that the reports felt it was their obligation to support the war and help win the war. by this time in the vietnam war, it is a very different perspective here it the
go their obligation is to tell the american people about what is actually happening. the president does not like it. doug stanton, but for those figures back on the screen. -- let's put those figures back on the screen. 67,can see in october of the yeses were at 46% saying that it was a mistake sending the troops to fight in been on. by 68 and 59, they were increasing. by 1968 and 1969, it went up to 54% and 58% the year after. mistake.t it was a , you willferenced
want to look at january of 1968 as the repression of the war. it is coming straight into our living rooms as it breaks. what is interesting to talk about with world war ii and the this greatat disconnect and this divide we are beginning to experience in -- stan parker joined up and will what you had only ended 22 years earlier. these are the sons of world war ii were going off to fight. who i thinkparents are slower to be in that yes, but they are going there too. paul: lynn, do you want to add to that? lynn: this is this extraordinary generational schism and shift. are sense, the children
holding their parents accountable in a different way and saying just because you are older, you're not necessarily wiser. we know something that you don't know and you have to listen to us. we're the ones that are going to make the sacrifice, do the killing and the dying. we don't necessarily think after what has been happening for the last three or four years in vietnam that you know what you're doing or that you are taking us on the right path. that is a cognitive dissonance for our culture. that the people in charge, our parents, the 30 figures, the institutions that we have revered, the military, educational institutions, maybe they're not doing the right thing. we had never been able to sort that out since then. but i thinkainful there is her was among all sides. that is worth it when you get to as a culture. that young men that doug wrote about our heroes. they try to do what they thought
was the right thing and young people on the campuses who were back, without the war was wrong and try to stop it were also doing what they thought was the right thing. --sort of had to basically we feel we have to choose between these two and a thing we have to move beyond that. early did organize protest begin for the war? where did they begin? doug: i think they began much earlier than we think. 64, 65. it began in dci new york. is how interesting little they seemed to penetrate their consciousness that that was going on.
from there is various, they're coming out of world war ii and they are not paying attention to the protest that is brewing. -- first protests were small-scale. there was a man named phil zimmerman was very active in the civil rights movement. invited toed being go to protest at the dupont factory in the midwest because they were creating napalm. 20 people showed up. this was a 96 to four and 65 and he felt very demoralized. and 65 and he felt very demoralized. as we began to ask what the troops on the ground in vietnam, a protest was caused in washington dc. there were 25,000 people there.
that was the moment he said he felt that there could be a mass movement. it was small-scale, it was local, it didn't have a lot of press. it grew organically over time and it had to do with the changes in the draft and who was getting drafted as the war escalated. this is when more young men and women felt this was going to touch them. what we are of fighting for became much more real and present. the movement grew. paul: i want to do as you about some of the names that came up as far as the protesting went. on our screen we're putting a picture of someone named norman morrison. his story i found absolutely devastating.
he was a quaker with a very strong belief in pacifism. reacted to something in 1953, buddhist monks protested the southeastern government. they didn't respect their right and it became a major new story around the world. he went to the pentagon and set himself on fire right outside of mcnamara'sf defense office. i don't think he is as well remembered as well as he should before this insane and brave example of civil disobedience. it speaks to the fervor that people felt the war was wrong. he represents a very tiny minority of the american public. lots more conversation to
go with our two guests. able to put the phone numbers on the bottom of the screen. we will do for separate phone lines. we will look at the reaction back here in the u.s.. if you look at the eastern and central time zones, you can call these numbers. we have a line for vietnam veterans as well. here it is. here is one for vietnam protesters as well. there are four separate lines and we will keep those on the screen for a little bit, maybe in about 10 minutes or so we will start getting to your calls wholynn novak --lynn novick is in new york. now let's go to doug stanton. hayden?o is tom he is one of the early founders of the protest peace movement.
michigan comesf out of there. the students were democratic society, dashboard democratic protest movement, when it begins to hit critical mass via the draft, people started attention. -- paying attention. the people i wrote about joint earlier and i just wonder what their experience might have been had they been a bit younger. lynn: i was just going to add that in the making of our family had the chance to speak to veterans from many different phases of the war and it is definitely true. in early generation went with a great deal of idealism. in 1955 --e military
65, 66 and 67. it was very hard to hold onto your idealism about what the work could be as the work continued after the election of 1968. to not lump all veterans together as if they had one mind were all people protested the war. there is a lot of writing and nuance in these groups. -- variety and nuance in these groups. paul: we should talk about these protests in new york. here is a look. getting community support, we are getting blankets, food and money. they are also getting opposition from faculty and right-wing students.
when a student takes over university. the police department had to come in and break that up and take the university back from the students. this is democracy in action. that is what it looks like. we are both talking about the veterans on the protesters. paul: when you see the video again, what goes through your mind, when? lynn? there was the student named nancy beaverton. she had a wonderful story about all this. it had to do with building a gym. it had nothing to do with the vietnam war and it quickly became about something about the war. the way the university was complicit with military contract research and etc.. it was a big question for a lot of students. role inour college's the war?
moneyaid we are getting for research address a certain kind of bombing or whatever aspect of the work was affecting their life on campus. it sort of got out of control. there was a lot of idealism, there was a radical movement within the student group. there was also the tension on the campus as you can see. studentswith the called the jocks who they referred to as right-wing students. conservative students didn't want this kind of chaos and unrest. there are traveling -- i will be trying to go to class -- they were probably trying to go to class. it was a very important moment for anyone who was there. the police came in, they were hurt. to the people who run these institutions, they didn't know what to do, how to manage these kinds of fervor and useful
idealism and chaos and violent impulses. the people in charge were really at sea. speaks to what the children of the elite -- what happens when the children of the elite turn against the old order and turn it upside down. nobody knows what to do. it was a level of tragedy in all this for what happened in columbia. let's talk what the homeland here. we turn to doug stanton, can use when something about this draft exemption? who could avoid the draft and why? medical reasons, psychological reasons. it is interesting, a marriage.
a couple of guys that interviewed with this book remembered being in the high school cafeteria saying i can't believe that charlie wants to get married so he can get out of the war. he says i really want to go there. that was really surprising to me. soldierst were u.s. hearing and seeing about support for the war at home? lynn: that evolves over time but several of the soldiers were veterans that we spoke to and remembered reading about the antiwar movement in stars and stripes -- the military newspaper. the other negative about it. they were being about protests and feeling betrayed. why are people doing that? you are here trying to win this war. why are they not supporting me? that was a very prevalent
feeling up until 1968. they weren't getting a lot of information about what was going on outside of their area of operation. novick and understand it while it was happening. they were really focused on where they were and surviving. getting news from back home didn't make it will be supported -- people feel supported. it caused a schism. it is a bit more nuanced than that. i remember speaking to a soldier and his sister. his sister back home started protesting the war and she wrote to him and told him about that. at first he wasn't sure what he thought. she said i am protesting the war because i want you to come home. he could see something in that. is a lynn novick
documentary filmmaker and worked on pbs's 10 part series on the vietnam war. dougdoug stanton is an author. aug: this is a book about recon mission that survived the attack in the vietnam war. i met someone in 2005 researched another. this gentleman loading a helicopter reached out and said do you think anyone is interested in our story in vietnam? what the book tries to do is go back and tell that story and be the homecoming they never had. when we reference your stories, i think this remains our unfinished narrative in america. lynn is exactly right.
this is for afghanistan and between the northern alliance and the taliban. i traveled on a book tour for this. i was shocked at the degree with vietnam simmers below consciousness of so many americans. -- aentlemen standing up gentleman standing up and saying i never said the word vietnam. -- a young girl saying that my grandfather lived through this. this is a portal into that conversation, that is what we have to have right now. exactly, yes. i have to agree 100%. that was our impulse. that is why i wanted to make this film. there is the sense of unfinished business. it is a dramatic experience for our country.
it is something we never really understood. we helped by spending 10 years and talking to people across the political spectrum here and in vietnam that we would be able to shed light on the story. -- maybe we were expecting too much but i don't think you can have reconciliation until you understand the truth. there are many shirts here. it is not one, simple clear narrative. at least we can agree on some of the varieties and perspectives and what happened, some of the facts. one of which is our leaders from the beginning of the war back into the that is an important perspective to start with. we have found in reactions to the film it has opened up conversations. >> so many great documentaries
and books especially, a bright shining lie. we have discussed for so long how we feel about the war. 70this generation approaches and becomes a de facto previous world war ii generation, i think it is time to ask how the war made them feel. different question. there's a lot of unfinished business. if you imagine the conversations that never happened in america because all of that energy has been spent repressing the experience of vietnam. as tim anderson told me, i don't remember a bit of that whole year and it was the most important year of my life. we cannot go into history without putting a period on the end of the sentence of what happened to us in the. host: we have a vietnam veteran on the line. philip, good morning. we understand you're calling from switzerland. caller: that is true. i did not say i was vietnam
veteran. i'm an air force veteran. i was in from 1961 to 196i-5. host: thank you for clarifying. caller: a strategic air command based during the cuban missile crisis and remember clearly that i thought i was going to die the next day because i thought we would be at war. when i got out in 1965, i started at university. i've served in georgia from 1963 to 1965 and was involved in civil war protests but gradually got involved in antiwar stuff. when i started in 1965, there would be maybe 20 people. it gradually grew and grew eventually. in 1967i was expelled for antiwar sit in in late 1967. my brother served in the amount
-- in vietnam in the air force. my brother-in-law was a kc 135 boom operator out of thailand refueling bombers and fighter planes bombing vietnam. host: a question or comment for our guest? caller: i was going to talk about the division of families. i was getting right to the point where i went to visit my father after i'd been kicked out. he said i should be shot for treason. i think to this day the division in america at that point, we see reflections of that today. host: thank you for calling, philip. doug stanton, he brings up the division of families. doug: i had a neighbor who recently passed away. air force academy. was about to go and quit the air force academy because he wanted to go into the service.
we cannot live like this. i don't know how you get beyond it. i think storytelling can help it. this is not a productive way to live for a country to have these kinds of divisions. host: we have a caller from michigan. denise. caller: can you hear me on the speakerphone? host: we can. go right ahead. caller: 1968 was a pivotal year for the whole culture. i'm the quintessential baby boomer, born in 1950. in 1968 i was senior in high school and started college at michigan state. i became involved -- i had been in student government and wanted to become a politician. as i became more aware of the war and i was up at michigan state, i realized that the poor guys my age were getting drafted and it did not seem fair.
i got involved in the women's movement to protest some of the inequities for women. in order to organize a protest, i called sds to ask for their help. they sent someone from university, michigan, bill ayers and his girlfriend diana came to organize the women's protest. i stayed involved with them and went to an sds convention in texas where a faction that believed in violence and escalating the violence broke off and signed a political position paper. you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. the other faction of sds wrote an opposition paper that said you don't need a rectal thermometer to know who the assholes are. [laughter]
caller: i appreciate the laugh. my interest was what were the reasons for the war. i kept trying to figure out why we were in vietnam. i did not believe in the domino theory at all. it certainly was not worth sacrificing 52,000 guys my age. host: thank you for calling. the caller reminds me. i will do to ask about women and minorities when it comes to protest. how big were the numbers in those areas? how impactful were they? lynn: i am not an expert on the demographics, but i can tell you the antiwar movement was led by men. women played a huge part but did not have leadership roles. the woman who was at the columbia protest wrote about in spoke about how women, we were there to help the guys do what
they were doing and they were not really given full equal role in everything. they were not woke on the issue of women to the degree they should have been. to some degree the antiwar movement incorporated aspects of the civil rights movement for some leaders. it was not fully integrated either. there's imperfect aspects of it for sure. if we take a step back, the idealism to protest inspired women. inspired people in the gay rights movements and other movements. between civil rights and the antiwar movement it sort of gave birth to many other kinds of movements that were asking the same questions. what it means to be a citizen in democracy. obligations to hold our leaders accountable and to ask and demand change.
i think what the caller spoke about in terms of the antiwar movement is very important. there was a small minority that believed at this point peaceful protest was not going to work. you can get a lot of people to show up. but the leadership of the government is not going to be responsive. what you had to do was essentially take up arms and moved toward a radical, violent revolution. as phil zimmerman said, these were infantile fantasies. there's no way that you were going to take over the government of the united states. but it came out of rage and frustration. peaceful protests did not seem to be moving the dial. teenagers who believe strongly that something needs to happen. unfortunately the radical side of the antiwar movement, they were good at getting media attention. sort of change the conversation in a way that was very destructive to the ultimate
ends. that the peaceful protesters were trying to accomplish. >> let's hear from bill in wilmington, north carolina. caller: i got out of high school in 1965. i had no desire to go to college. i had no idea what i wanted to do. i pretty much assumed i would end up getting drafted. i did in 1966. i was there and back before i was even 21. i served with the 11th armored cavalry regiment which is one you don't seem to hear too much about. i have watched most of the series on pbs on vietnam. i think it's outstanding. when i got out i figured, this is what my country told me i needed to do so we must be right
. as the years have gone by, i think the whole thing was a mistake. i've never gone to see the wall. i don't want to see the wall. i personally did not have it that bad. i could have had it better but i could have had it a lot worse. when i got out i said that part is done, leave me alone and let me live the rest of my life. i lasted a couple quarters in college not knowing what i wanted to do. i never felt so out of place in my life. i was 21. taking classes with 15-year-old kids. it was like a different world between the ages of 18 and 21. now i'm 71 and retired. all in all, in hindsight i think the whole thing was a mistake. host: thank you for sharing your story. guest: interesting to hear bill talk about not wanting to go to the wall. one of our most visited monuments in our country.
a monument to a war we talk the least about. which tells me how we know how to look at the wall but we don't have the language yet. although thanks to documentaries like lynn's we are getting there. what i found in my interviews a lot of veterans want to know who is watching. who was watching out for us. in the heat of combat only fighting to stay alive to the next moment and for your buddy. if you're watching out for each other. what seems to be in the sense of the vietnam veterans experience is a sense of dislocation. that there was no sense that moment.as authoring the nobody was in charge. there was no principle i which they had a story. i wrote a book about world war ii.
that story had been framed early on, that that was world war ii. we knew how it ended. how now interesting this part of our 21st century, we should look to storytelling. i would urge bill to go to the wall. it is a place of america's homecoming for the vietnam war. i was there yesterday. you see people essentially coming home to their own reflection, looking at the names of the dead. >> this is a video about the clash between police and protesters in 1968. after we watch it, we will talk about it. the cops were all guys for
the neighborhood. beenbly some of them had in vietnam. if they hadn't been, they certainly had cousins or brothers who were. this man who had fought, was now a reporter, assigned to cover the conflict in american street. all of a sudden, the streets are filled with kids that do not look like college kids are supposed to look in a cops be oh. -- view. some of them are committing vandalism and yelling obscenities. i think a lot of policeman saw that as abusing the privileges that they had, and scorning them. >> they are provoking us but we
do not want to confront them. host: what can you tell us about the perspective of the police? the national guard during this period? lynn: i think we talk about this a lot today. we would like our officers of the law to be trained in something called the escalation. -- de-escalation. if you are faced with a difficult situation, how do you get people to calm down. we saw the opposite happened in chicago and kent state even more tragically where these young men wear uniforms trying to keep order were not really given the right training for how to manage a difficult situation.
there is an enormous amount of class resentment, which is something we feel today. they see these young kids protesting. it is a privilege and they feel they are being unpatriotic. they should just keep that keep quiet and serve their country. i'm quite sure there were people in the police forces, national guards that did not hold those whose. -- those views. they were in a tough spot. what is important to take away from this chaos in chicago, after the fact there was an investigation. it was termed a police riot. so the students protesting were being provocative. but the police and the national guard made the situation much worse and television cameras captured it. we interviewed a veteran who was in favor of the war when he went to vietnam. he happened to be on r&r when
this happened. he was in australia watching on tv and he watched the chaos unfolding of people in uniform beating up protesters with clubs and hauling them off. he thought for a second it was czechoslovakia and the russian army. he realized it was america and went wait a minute his father is a police officer and it looked like someone like his dad was beating up someone who looked like him. at that moment he became politicized. it had a seismic effect, the coverage of the protest and chaos in chicago. host: let's go to bill in pennsylvania. you are on the air. caller: hello. i hope to tell my experience concisely and make a comment. in 1968 i graduated from high school. people from that time remember the lottery system that determines whether you would get drafted or not. my lottery number was six, which meant there was little chance that i would not get drafted.
i tried to be a conscientious objector. i wrote a letter to the draft board. i said basically i could not ever imagine killing someone, especially someone i did not know. i never really got an answer to the letter except they acknowledged they received it. after a couple years, i was in college, i developed a severe mental illness. when that happened at the draft board was no longer interested in me. they sent me a letter. i was classified as 4f. i since recovered from that illness i'm glad to say. i participated in this demonstration. antiwar demonstrations in washington in 1970 and 1971. the paper said there were over one million people there. i can remember seeing jane
fonda, bob hayden, jerry rubin, some of the big protest names. some of those people were a bit too radical for me but we were all opposed to the war. the very chilling moment was may in 1970 when four students were killed at kent state university. i remember that day so clearly. it seemed like this country was at war with itself. the main comment i wanted to make was that when the veterans returned to this country, it's a disgrace how they were treated. in some cases they were spit on at the airports. i think these things happen because of what people saw. the war on tv. the veterans who went, they did what they believed in. they thought they were doing the right thing. they followed orders. what happened in the war was never their fault.
it was the fault of politicians like nixon, johnson, and mcnamara. host: thank you for sharing your observation and your situation. doug stanton, you have written about this. the homecoming experience. doug: he seems to have a great deal of empathy. a couple of people i interviewed, a gentleman named stan parker, he was sitting in his airline seat and the person next to him rang the bell and said i would like to be moved. the flight attendant said we tried to find a seat where you did not have to sit next to him. he said i could hear this. he looked in the reflection of the window, do i look like a killer. not everyone had this experience .
we seem to have this ongoing debate in america about how these guys were treated. my friend tim was hitchhiking and family took him out to dinner and then dropped him off at his parent store. nancie, franklin north carolina. lynn, did you want to add to that? lynn: i wanted to jump in because it's such a critical point about how veterans thought they were received and retrospective looking back. no one story fits everyone's experience. there may not have been nearly as much literal spitting as we might think, but there was a sense that they came home and no one thanked them because we did not win the war. not no one -- it is that unfinished business aspect. world war ii veterans came home to victory parade because everyone was over there until the war was over. you came home and the country was celebrating.
here people came home on their own one by one to a country so bitterly divided about what they had done. there was the conflation of not just who was responsible, the sort of specter of war crimes and whether soldiers have committed them. focusing on individual soldiers rather than the people who sent them over there and set up the war machinery. a lot for us to talk about what actually happened and who is really responsible. the soldiers, the veterans, they were the next best ring for the -- thing for the public. you can't go and yell at lbj, but here is a soldier in uniform. they became psychic targets. that was very wrong. we are beginning to acknowledge that and as a country move forward. host: let's get that call from nancie in north carolina.
thank you for waiting. caller: thank you so much. ms. novick, you won my heart. you brought up something very important to me. almost brings tears to my eyes. i am one of the original baby boomers of that era, growing up, watching the war. the first war that was ever televised on television. we would watch it every evening with walter cronkite mostly narrating the war, being embedded there many times. my father was a world war ii veteran who i love more than life itself. he was pro-vietnam in the very beginning. as the war kept going for 4, 5 years. our own senator alan cranston said enough is enough. he came home and said we got to pull out now. i graduated in 1957.
-- 1967. my father, after listening to walter cronkite saying this war was beyond belief, alan cranston, our senator, says we have to pull out now. i graduated in 1967 in a class of well over 700 students. at thatew stand up ceremony, over 700 of us, our parents sitting out there, grandparents from world war ii, korea, possibly world war i, great-grandparents etc., were shocked when none of us stood up for the flag salute or the national anthem. that was our protest. host: lynn novick, want to respond? lynn: it is painful for mansi -- nancy and her generation to feel they were trying to get a message across to their parents and grandparents and they were not ready to hear it. as she says her father did come around.
as the caller earlier says, he was in the service and later realized the war was a mistake. the shift did happen over time. in that moment it must have been difficult and brave to look at the people you respect and say we don't think you're making the right decisions for us. we spoke in our film to a veteran named tom who was enthusiastic about joining the marines in becoming a hero in fighting for this country. he had a complete transformation in vietnam. he joined vietnam veterans against the war and throwing his medals. he said he wanted to send a message to the people making decisions saying i don't think you people know much about what you are doing. that was a courageous act. to question a policy that by that time did not make sense. doug: if you look at the 1964 gulf of tonkin resolution. colin powell's speech in 2003
about uranium in iraq, they are spurious reasons to go into a country and fight a war. 18 years on from afghanistan, those veterans are treated very differently. i think it has to do with the way afghanistan in 2001 was framed for us. iraq is another question entirely. i just -- when i compare those political moments and the outcome years later from each of them, it is tragic the way the vietnam veteran was treated in the aftermath of an equally active chicanery. host: lynn novick is in new york. a documentary filmmaker. work on the pbs 10 part series the vietnam war.
doug stanton is here, author of several books including the odyssey of echo company which we have been talking a bit about. we have sandra on the line from attleboro, massachusetts now. caller: good morning. i had three family members sent. they went over. one was my husband, two my brothers. my two brothers ended up going to vietnam direct. one was shipped to germany. the other state in vietnam. my husband was in the latter part of the war. to make a long story short, my brother, who went to vietnam, ended up protecting the lumber yards at danang valley, wherever it was they had the big
offensive. later on, he had to be sent out. he did not quite make the whole offensive. he comes over and checks on us at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning. the man has never left vietnam actually. my husband was in bay of pigs. when he came home to our family, we went to church. while in church, we became the focus, my husband was dressed in his uniform. they started having a thing about soldiers and stuff like that. my husband told me it was about where he'd gone through, everything else. it was terrible.
i've never seen such things in my life. was the war about the lumber yards? i was told that on the base here in brockton the man took us on tour of the helicopters and he said it was shot because of protecting the lumber yards over in vietnam. he knew it because he drove part of it himself. he has a son that was in the service. host: let's hear from doug stanton on that call. doug: it was about that. many things. i don't think it was just about the lumber yards. host: and nathan calling from old saybrook connecticut. caller: thank you brian lamb for c-span. thanks to all the moderators on washington journal who really do a fabulous job.
the calls are wonderful. i loved nancy. she said the filmmaker won her heart. bill from pennsylvania won my heart. his story was just wonderful to hear. he was punished the same way that muhammad ali was punished. and that is why muhammad ali is a hero to my generation. i think the war protesters were significant to ending the war because they drove lyndon johnson out of office. he knew he would not be fromcted, so he withdrew the possibility of the nomination. i think that was because the
protesters put so much protein -- put so much pressure on him. my question for mr. stanton, when robert mcnamara, who wrote his book 15 years ago, in which he said that they all knew that unwinnablentenable, tragedy. how did that make you feel? did that vindicate your feelings of doubt as a soldier, or do you think he should have taken it to his grave? host: lynn novick, i thought i saw you nodding your head. did you want to respond? lynn: i think a number of voters we spoke with, in particular a marine who gave up a rhodes scholarship to go to vietnam and fight, to lead a platoon in
1968, he was recalling what was revealed in the pentagon papers , which is mcnamara's memo to johnson in 1965, saying the chances for victory are no better than one in three. we are probably not going to win, but recommending escalation , and johnson going along with it. and the subsequent revelations from mcnamara that they knew the war was not winnable and kept on escalating anyway. ,ooking back, the marines said i can understand if our leaders make mistakes with good intentions. with a noble heart, people make mistakes and policies can be wrong and we all understand that. but when you are lying to protect your own ego -- that is what he said. he and many other soldiers went to vietnam and did their duty and fought and killed and had their friends die for leaders who live. he said -- leaders who lied. he said that makes him mad. that's why i was nodding, i was
member and carl, understanding that what we know now, if they had been honest with the american public from the beginning, we would be having a very different conversation. host: going to mark in grand rapids. hey there. caller: how are you? host: good, go ahead, please. caller: i would like to thank ynn novickand le for one of the best and most brilliant documentaries i have ever seen. i am originally from a large upstate new york family that got involved in anti-vietnam war and civil rights protests very early on. i was born in 1960, so these people were heroes of mine as i grew up. i guess my question to both mr. stanton and ms. novak is -- in 2018, where is the civil disobedience and where is the outrage over the war in iraq and the war in afghanistan that is going on now much longer than the vietnam conflict? host: thank you for calling.
doug stanton, why don't you take that one? doug: it is true. when my book came out in 2010, the first interview i did with a reporter was -- are we still in afghanistan? since about 2001 in afghanistan. 18 years in afghanistan. i have three nephews and a lot of family members who are in the service or have been. i'm an anomaly among my writer friends. where are the protests? where are the people fighting this war? we could debate whether or not we should bring the draft or public service back, but if we did either one of those and somehow tied it to our foreign policy, we would see immediate more public engagement with this very issue that he raises. host: we want to play a trailer for a new documentary called "hit and stay," about a group called the catonsville nine. when it came to protesting the war, who were the catonsville nine? lynn: i believe these were the
draft resisters who went into the selective service office -- that is the story, right? -- and tried to destroy draft records. catonsville, maryland. i think they poured blood on draft files so that the selective service would not be able to do his job. they were arrested and tried. it was a very famous trial about civil is obedience and how far that can go. i believe it was the bea arrogan brothers, two prominent peace activists, who led that protest. it speaks to sort of, as we said earlier, that sense of civil this obedience and nonviolent protest, and there are many forms that can take. there was a sense of building frustration in the antiwar movement, that just showing up in a big rally -- you could do that, you could get a lot of people to come, but it wouldn't move the dial on the policy. there were different factions
that had different ideas about how to really shake things up. people, many people of conscience felt the war was so wrong. let's not forget, we talk a lot about the 58,000 americans who died and every single name on the wall is a tragedy and it's important to go there. but there is 3 million vietnamese who were killed. when we think about the war as an american story, we forget our country's role in the deaths of millions of people. certainly the vietnamese also played a part. many of the people who died were killed by north vietnamese or vietcong, but american munitions did a lot of that killing. that is partly what is fueling the sense of the need to stop the war. it was not just to save american lives and hopefully stop our country from disintegrating, but also to stop our country and our policy from killing vietnamese people who had not done anything to us. host: more calls in a moment, but here is a trailer for that new documentary called "hit and stay."
it runs about two minutes. [video clip] >> i believe we are in times that make it increasingly impossible for christians to obey the law of the land. and to remain true to christ. >> at the height of the vietnam war, nine catholics entered there is building in catonsville, maryland. selective service files and brought those files into this parking lot and burn them with the help of homemade napalm. >> they stood around and were talking amongst themselves and they were praying and waiting for the feds to show up. it was a big new story. >> we were about publicity. we knew that this was drama, this was not just politics. this was politics as theater. >> i think the catonsville nine opened up the options of what people were willing to do. >> i had no idea anybody was doing that. that was the prototype of action. >> there were over 100 draft board actions in this country.
>> we now know that those draft boards never drafted again. >> that was my little claim to fame, to be the first nun in the united states to commit a federal felony. >> we did not try to escape, we waited for arrest. we used the trial as an educational media. >> we put the vietnam war on trial, and also the fbi. >> i do not sympathize with the burning of draft cards. i think that is very un-american. >> there were very threatening people. i remember one comment from the prosecutor, that these people were a greater threat to the security of the nation than organized crime. he said that in open court. >> the jury for the most part, every one of them was opposed to the war by the time we finished the trial. >> we have chosen to be powerless criminals in a time of criminal power. we have chosen to be branded as peace criminals by war criminals. should clarify, that was
the trailer for the 2013 documentary "hit and stay: a history of faith and resistance ," courtesy of the codirector. we will hear from doug stanton on what you just saw, reflections on the catonsville nine. -- it's hardt just to imagine how we can get civic engagement at that level today to talk about our own policy. i am not saying that that actually would be the path we want to go forward, but it is really interesting because that is the bitter fruit of so many families sending their young men and women off to vietnam. while that -- this is so interesting, because we have so many people calling in -- i know we will get to those calls -- but if we were to do this about korea or even afghanistan and iraq, what we are hearing in these calls is the sense of wanting to be heard. people are calling simply to
say, this is what happened to me in vietnam. that is a different kind of feeling in this show than we see elsewhere. i'm glad to hear from them because we talk so much about the protests, and i really think until we get to what it just felt like for these guys -- it is my contention -- i know it is too -- that perhaps this is an unhealthy blister on the american soul that needs to be lanced. host: thank you for waiting. hi, jeff. caller: good morning. host: we got you now, go ahead, please. caller: i spent two tours of duty in vietnam. i was drafted, i should not have been drafted. i was an only son. they didn't care. they still drafted me. all of the friends i was in vietnam with, i was in the
mobile construction battalion 121. although i was a navy person. all of them are dead, but i am still alive. i am still having problems to this day with my situation. host: what kind of problems? caller: for example, the other day i was at my town hall and an individual told me i was dishonorably discharged. right on my id-214 it says honorable, but the guy gave me a hard time. i am still getting hassles at this point. i've been exposed to agent orange. i have prostate cancer. but they don't care, nobody cares. host: the story of jeff there. we will get the story of alvin, then get back to our guests. peoria, arizona. yes, alvin? caller: first of all, i want to thank ken burns. he is doing a fantastic job, not
only addressing vietnam, but i followed him with the civil war, black baseball, etc., etc. in my experience as a 21-year-old in 1964, i enlisted in the u.s. army basically believing that i would be sent to vietnam. fate intervened and i was sent to korea instead of vietnam. every other class was sent to vietnam. the class in between was sent someplace else. i served in the seventh infantry division in korea. but i did follow vietnam very closely. and i was young, naïve, and wanted to serve my country, and that is why i enlisted. but at any rate, i made e5 fairly quickly because i was in great shape. exercised, the whole nine yards.
when i got out, i went to college in 1967 area at that time -- 1967. at that point i was really following vietnam and i was in my sophomore year when the tet offensive occurred. what i did is i started researching how we got into vietnam and our involvement. i think the real untold story of is the beginning of our involvement in vietnam, which dated back to 1942. i think that is the real untold story, and if people wanted to understand vietnam, they have to understand the cause and effect of how we got into vietnam. host: alvin, thank you for calling. lynn novick, your response taliban -- response to alvin? lynn: i completely agree. in the film, 10 parts, 18 hours, ken burns and i decided to go back to actually 19th century and the french involvement in vietnam before we got there.
then we quickly get to world war in and we did get involved vietnam because we were trying to fight a common enemy, which was the japanese. we allied ourselves with ho chi minh and his band of gorillas, we helped train them. as soon as the war ended, the cold war started and the communists were our enemies and everything flowed from there. but our initial involvement had to do with the dynamics of the second world war, that's absolutely true. one of the tragedies of many tragedies of the vietnam war is that there was something happening in the world after the second world war, which looking back we understand was the process of decolonization. that these empires, the british, the french, the portuguese, they -- the belgians -- they were going to lose their empires. they were no longer going to be able to have colonies and subjugate people in the third world. those countries were going to demand self-determination. there was a strong nationalist current. communism, the russians and then
the chinese, supported these movements. we, therefore, opposed them. irreconcilable conflict that got us deeper and deeper into vietnam and had a momentum of its own. at one point, mcnamara said in a memo that the vietnam war had acquired a momentum of its own and it must be stopped. that is true. once you start something, it is a lot harder to stop. the reasons we got in are important, but i think equally important, the reasons we stayed in. there was a succession of american leaders who kept it going even though it was built on a house of cards. host: doug stanton, i want to get your reflections on the caller prior. he said poorly treated, not only then when he came back, but up through present day. doug: he said nobody cared and goes back to the idea that nobody is watching. nobody is really in charge. did andhe things i people that i wrote about is
went back to vietnam, kind of went back to the beginning of where this all happened. that provided some sense of reconciliation with their younger selves. another color mentioned -- or lynn did -- when you travel the streets, this is an american war, vietnam. it is not called the vietnam war. host: we have george on the line from titusville, florida. george, thanks for taking part. what would you like to say or ask? caller: i would just like both of them to comment on tet offensive and walter cronkite. the tet offensive was a military victory. they threw everything at us and they got clobbered. it wasn't reported that way, but that's what happened. walter cronkite gets on tv and
says --eeting, well-meaning, says what he said, which was 180 degrees the opposite to what happened. journalists prognosticating about things that perhaps they don't know everything about. could you just comment on that, please? host: thank you. let's ask lynn novick to take that one. lynn: yeah, i think the caller is reflecting a very common understanding. a lot of people feel the way that you feel. i think it is important to kind of take a step, to telescope out from that. yes, one could argue that the tet offensive was a military deceive for the north vietnamese and the vietcong because they lost so many people, tens of thousands of their soldiers. on the surface, that could look like a decisive turning point for them. but what we have to keep in mind
and what our leaders understood, even though they were not telling the american people this at the time, or ever, was that north vietnam had a very healthy birth rate. they had no interest in stopping fighting. they might go back and lick their wounds for a year or two, three, four, however long it takes to rebuild, but they are going to be back. they are not walking away. ultimately it became a question of, how long is this war going to go on? even though we killed a lot of soldiers and combatants in the tet offensive, it wasn't decisive for them. so understanding where they were coming from, that is why the wise men, the inner circle of advisers that johnson had, came to him and said, you have to get out. walter cronkite didn't know any of that. what he was really looking at was -- this is unsustainable for the american people. also, what is at stake? what are we fighting for? what is the cause?
what is the risk to our country if we don't win the war? also, the sunk cost problem. do we continue to throw more young men into this fight to justify the lives of those who have already been lost? there is a lot going on below the surface, and i think walter cronkite becomes the lightning to, and a way where you have take a longer, wider view to really appreciate the context. host: doug, i want to ask you about congress as well. i want to show a clip from rj, 1968, white house phone call between president johnson and his secretary of state, talking about a meeting between the senate foreign relations committee and talking about the state of the war in vietnam. here's a look. [video clip] >> we had a three-hour meeting with him the other night. mansfield, as usual, he was spaghetti, he had nothing to say. he is just against the war. saying he had done everything he had done to get these, the greatest man in the world.
just nothing, just spaghetti. fulbright says, i am determined run us out of vietnam. we have got to get out of there, that's my purpose. i was lied to, misled. the tonkin gulf. basedy time you contract on fraud and misrepresentation, there is no contract at all. and that congress does have some responsibility and i want it exercised. i want to be consulted. well, you have been here consulted -- well, you have been consulted, we have been here for three hours. what do you recommend? he recommends negotiation, i do, too. how do we get going? he does not get anywhere, he just goes on about how terrible the war as and how it is dividing our society to pieces.
i agreed with all that. host: what was the role of congress during this period in trying to contain the war, reacting to protests? speak to us about congress for a moment. doug: i think what that clip just showed is that they were starting to take a very active role. they were coming forward. this was march of 1968. the previous caller said that cronkite had been 180 degrees off from the tactical achievement of the tet. what i want to point out, and this goes to the johnson clip, is that the tet offensive as an event was 180 degrees off from what westmoreland had been saying in the summer of 1967, which is that we were close to the light at the end of the tunnel. it is not like cronkite was coming out of the blue with the summation he had. then of course, you had johnson here just kind of being twirled on the wheel of indecision between the politicians in
congress, who are feeling this blowback from the country, who has watched the tet unfold in color on their tv screens. host: let's go to michael in san bernardino, california. good morning to you. caller: good morning. i just want to say that -- make this quick. patton in thewith third army, so i thought it was my duty to go to vietnam. the i got there, i was with first infantry division and one of the highest ranking officers died that month. then president nixon visited us in 1969. and then i got out and i was walking through the national airport on may 4, 1970. wasally felt like i
nothing, because they looked at me because everybody was looking at kent state. but now that has turned around. i've had a great experience with the v.a. the persian people, persian gulf soldiers, said don't celebrate without us. don't celebrate without the vietnam vet. i was welcomed home in 2010. host: thank you, michael. from michael to roger in pennsylvania, then back to our guests. hello, roger. caller: hi. the vietnam war documentary was excellent, by the way. i turned 18 in 1972. my lottery number was 217. and i was 1a. i remember it a little differently. i went to college with a lot of vietnam vets and i had a
business partner that was a medic in vietnam, and i have to disagree. everybody wanted to hear their stories. i don't remember anybody talking down to them. everybody seemed to hold them in high esteem. we got a lot of higher end work in north jersey, because my friend was a vietnam vet and the doctors wanted to hire him and hear his stories. my father was a platoon sergeant in the philippines -- in the pacific theater in one were to, came home, never talked about the war. he went through hell, he kept his mouth shut. worked until the day he died at 83 and never asked the government for anything. he never got the g.i. bill, never got medicare. i think the vietnam vets and ets should just shut up, do their job, and go to work, just like my father did, the greatest generation. host: lynn novick, anything from the last couple of colors you want to respond to? lynn: i think what we see is
there are many versions. we all have our own narrative and they don't always line up. it is a big country and there is a lot of variety of experience. on the one hand, it's absolutely , especiallymetimes if soldiers came home right around 1969, 1970, it was very painful and difficult and they were targeted as the closest thing you could find to what was happening to criticize. but there were also veterans that came home and went about their lives. one of the greatest legacies of the vietnam generation is that they didn't keep quiet, and in a way. they demanded better care from the v.a. they complained -- were called attention to what became known as post-traumatic stress disorder. at first it was called post-vietnam syndrome. there was a sense that if you have been through combat, something might have happened to you psychologically, or even physically and psychologically, and it did not feel right.
the vietnam veterans held our government accountable to some degree, that you have to take care of soldiers when they come home. have been a terrible job of that from time immemorial. it was a big uphill climb. that is an important legacy. what has been really moving is the experiences we have had of seeing generations of soldiers who have fought in more recent and ongoing wars being grateful to the vietnam generation for opening the way for them to come home to a different kind of welcome, and then wanting to pull the vietnam veterans into that for parades and various welcome home ceremonies. there is a kind of intragenerational warrior community that has been very powerful. host: ronald, hello. in 1969i was in vietnam . the reason i am calling is the war crimes that happened in
vietnam. um, i am very nervous. one was with lynn. she slipped out a word called illusion. i really think that is the proper word, because the vietnam war was an illusion. we should never have been there. if you have any history of vietnam, ho chi minh since world war i has tried his best to lead his country. he went to china for help and the chinese did not like him his country, kept their priorities was party, country, and etc. etc.,s country, party, and they did not like that. so he went back to vietnam. -- leaves, theis
vietnam vets, please tell your story to your family. it is lost history. the other thing is -- i am going to do this -- to write to the vietnam embassy in washington and apologize to them for the war. host: thank you, ronald. tell the story, doug stanton. doug: the caller before that said he came home and guys to hear his story about being in vietnam, which is all the difference, when you have an audience who is going to be listening. i would urge him to say today to the vietnam veterans, not to say to them to shut up, but to listen to their story and move on. we don't have to do anything with these stories. the biggest lesson i learned is that we have to acknowledge them. we can't fix the pain, but we can listen and become the
audience. host: lynn novick, final thoughts? lynn: for ken burns and myself and our colleagues who work on the film, we had the privilege of spending 10 years listening to people tell us their stories, both in america and vietnam. one of the things that was profound for me was that i made four trips to vietnam over the course of the project, and talking to veterans and civilians, there is a lot of unfinished business in vietnam. their country is still unreconciled about what happened during the war and who is responsible and whether it is worth the cost. even though on the winning side they have the pride of victory, it is still an enormously painful and difficult subject. the willingness to be present and hear each other's stories. the vietnamese people who have seen our film -- it has been translated into vietnamese and is streaming there -- it is opening up a conversation there that they haven't had as well. i think it speaks to a fundamental human need