tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Vietnam War at Home CSPAN May 28, 2018 12:35pm-2:05pm EDT
burned hundreds of draft cards. they beca vietnam veterans returned home to a changed country. our guests are doug stanton and filmmaker lynn novick, whose most recent project with ken burns was the ten-part documentary "the vietnam war." first, here's a cbs report on opposition to the war. >> war and specifically the war in vietnam, troubles all america. it troubles young people more, and the gap is greatest between college students and the rest of society. >> since the war in vietnam began to escalate in 1965, so did the growth of sds. >> a radical student of the university of colorado explains one reason for the spread of
radicalism. his audience, a kiwanas club. >> if it wasn't for the vietnam war, a lot of people like myself probably would have never reached the level i have. it was just the vietnam war that began the first conflicts. >> the survey shows that six out of ten parents and noncollege youth believe in fighting wars for our honor. only one-fourth of the college students say the same. almost two-thirds of the parents and more than two-thirds of noncollege youth say we should fight to contain communism. only a minority of college students agree. a majority of the young in college or out say the war in vietnam is imperialism. but only a minority of parents believe it is. both generations are aware of the way vietnam has torn america apart. >> i really don't think the problems of american youth going away until we solve the war in
vietnam. i really think this is perhaps one of the greatest underlying causes of the problems on the campuses. during world war ii, we believed in world war ii. we believed hitler should be defeated. we believed we should help france and germany and italy, and we believe that we were fighting for the freedom of america. >> this country, i don't know, it's a great country. i really believe that. and when it's fighting for something as it was in world war ii possibly, there's a cause for men to die, but today in vietnam i don't see any cause for anybody to die. >> i don't think that any of the kids understand what the war is all about. i don't understand what the war is about myself. you hear speeches and talks, but they're always evaded somehow of the direct point of why we're there. >> well, i suppose it goes right on back. you have to have a head of a
family. you have to have a head of a community. you have to have a head of a nation. then you go one step further, anticipate some nation has to more or less head up the world. there has to be a certain amount of discipline. >>. >> i'm very much against any war because no war is moral, but i don't know. i don't think we should be in vietnam because we're not immediately threatened. >> i think we should go in there and fight before communist comes here. we could stop it. my husband fought, so this is the way i feel. >> i think united states should stop playing policeman to the
world. >> joining us now here in washington at the table is doug stanton, author of this book, "the odyssey of echo company," which just came out, actually. >> just came out in paperback. >> thank you for joining us this morning. >> my pleasure. >> always joining us this morning up in new york city is lynn novick, a documentary filmmaker, more particularly for the pbs' vietnam war ten-part series. thank you very much for joining us, lynn, up in new york. appreciate your time as well. >> my pleasure. >> so let's start with lynn up in new york. by the beginning of 1968, the year 1968, did most americans at home still feel like the war was winnable? >> well, the polling shows that bit end of 1967. >> -- the country was pretty much evenly divided. the country never wanted to face the fact the war was not winnable, so there's a complicated question about should we be there. by 1968, the answer was basically 50% said no.
do we want to lose the war? most people did not want to. so there's sort of an inner conflict in the country about that. but you know, the johnson administration had tried to hard through '67 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. and so there was a little bit of an uptick in support for the policy, but you know, after many years of casualties and no real progress, the public was definitely losing patience with the war by then. >> doug stanton here in washington, somewhat similar question, but about the troops themselves. so by the beginning of '68 d most u.s. soldiers in vietnam feel like the war was winnable? >> i can speak mostly about echo company of the 101st airborne. when they discovered that lbj has decided not to run for re-election, i know a number of them felt quite betrayeded. they felt, we're winning this in
the aftermath in '68, why is he giving up on us? factically, i feel like day by day they might be winning, but in the long run, no, they didn't feel that way. >> what is this country look and feel and sound like at this point in 1968, starting with doug? >> wow. well, in 1968 itself? i mean, you had the uprisings in detroit. you had martin luther king with civil rights. then you had kennedy's assassination. and king's assassination. what was interesting to me in writing this book was how little, however, some of this penetrated the consciousness of the soldier in the field. at least among the group i talked with. it was almost as if they were living in two americas. >> lynn novick in new york, take us to february 27th, 1968. that was the day when walter cronkite on cbs news said,
quote, for it seems more certain now than ever that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in stalemate. do you think that was the turning point in american public support for the war? >> actually, i don't think it was a turning point. i think he was reflecting a turn that had already happened. as, you know, the polling show, the country was already basically divided about the war and pretty clear we shouldn't have been there. as the tet offensively unfolded, that carnage and lack of progress seemingly and the surprised and the fact we weren't prepared and didn't know this was going to happen really shocked the country. so cronkite is not leading anything. he's really reflecting where the country is at that point. the news reports of the tet offensive were sort of shocking and the carnage was a level that the public had not been used to seeing. the ratings of all the news broadcasts throughout the month
of january into february were huge. so the public was really paying attention in a way that maybe they hadn't before. cronkite really -- he did take a risk in putting himself out there in a way that he hadn't before to say his personal opinion. he was sort of the neutral reporter of information before that. and he himself had been to vietnam during the tet offensive and seen what was happening and came back and basically said the war is a stalemate. we can keep going indefinitelily, but we're noing go achieve the goal that our government has told us we're supposed to be working towards. and that really resonated with the public at that time. >> doug stanton, want to add to that? >> no, i completely agree. what's interesting is that sense of dislocation between what perhaps the guys in the field were feeling on a day-to-day basis, their story, and also what was happening back -- when they came back to america. that is still resonating with us
today. they feel like they live maybe one more and the american public lived another. >> here's a short piece of tape from president johnson expressing concern about support for the war on the home front. this was march 23rd, 1968. so about a month after that walter cronkite report that we just talked about. but this is the president march 23rd of '68. >> i've got to find some alternative to turn some of this thing around a little bit. if we don't, we're going to be in trouble. vietnam is the only thing, and it just murdered me. we're way down and he's up. the publicity has been bad. we lost everything. we didn't know it was going to happen. it's out in the press.
we've got to turn it around. maybe some of this prejudice will get away from us. i don't know, but we've got to. if we don't, why, we're not going to get any support. i've got 140 people who say they're not going to support us in the house of representatives. we still got russell, and we still got, what's it called, i don't know if we had clark's 20th parallel very long. i think it worked maybe two weeks. but we've got to find something to put these folks in the hole. they don't want any peace, but we haven't got that on them yet. hanoi doesn't want peace, but after the pause, we proved they didn't and we got a long ride. but we haven't had anything for a long time. when a dog is biting at you, and a mad dog, you got to give him a hamburger to stop and eat once in a while. >> lynn novick, your reflection
on that piece from the president? >> there's a lot to chew on in that. he's sort of all over the place in a way, and i think he's really struggling with what to do. right around this same time, the wise men, which were sort of the revered leaders of foreign policy establishment who had urged johnson to escalate the war in '64 and '65 came to him and said you have to find a negotiated settlement. this is not in our national interests, and we're not going to win. that essentially is what sort of tipped him into the place he's about to go to here, which is he's going to not run and he's going to just step away and he's going to essentially say that we have to find a way to find a negotiated settlement. negotiated settlement is essentially a code for leaving south vietnam to fight on its own and getting out of there, whatever happens. let the chips fall where they may. it doesn't mean surrender, but it certainly doesn't mean winning. he'd been reluctant to do that for his entire presidency. he did not want to be the first president to lose a war.
he thought it would be political suicide for himself. i think what's interesting is he says the press is lies, they're all lies, and he's sort of trying to find a way to do a pr thing here and get the reporters back on his side. that goes back to the second world war when there was a sense that the journalists, the press, and the military were on the same team and that the reporters felt it was their obligation to support the war and help win the war. and by this time in the vietnam war, it's a very different perspective. the reporters for the most part by the time walter cronkite makes his comments and afterwards, they feel their obligation is to tell the american people the truth about what's actually happening. the president doesn't like it. >> doug stanton, as we talk about public opinion here, i want to put those figures back up on the screen. it was a gallup poll 1968, '68, '69. the question is, was it a mistake sending troops to fight in vietnam? the yess were at 46%.
they went up to 54% by september of 1968. up to 58 by september of 1969. put some context to those numbers, if you could. >> well, the support is -- because i'm not seeing it on the screen. >> 46% say it was a mistake 1967. it went up to 54. it went up 8% in the next year, then up another 4% the year after. >> that it was a mistake. well, i mean, as lynn referenced, if you want to look at january of '68 as the inflection point of the war as we often discussed, it's coming straight into our living rooms as it breaks. what's interesting to talk about world war ii is that this great kind of disconnect in this divide that we're beginning to experience in that year is, you know, when stan parker in my book joins up, world war ii had
only ended 21 years earlier. these are the sons of world war ii in the early part of this war have gone off to fight. it's their parents who i think are slower to become in that yes column, but they're going there too. >> lynn novick, you want to add to that? >> yeah, i just think exactly as doug is saying, this extraordinary generational schism that we haven't had in our country before this moment. in a sense, the children are holding their parents accountable in a different way and saying just because you're older, you're not necessarily wiser. and we know something you don't know and you have to listen to us. we're the ones when are going to go over there and make the sacrifice, do the killing and the dying, and 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're taking us on the right path. that's a kind of cognitive dissonance for our culture.
the people in charge, our parents, their authority figures, the institutions we have revered, the military, educational institutions, political institutions, maybe they're not doing the right thing. and we've never really been able to sort that out the political institutions, maybe they're not doing the right thing and we have never been able to sort that south since then, but i think there's heroism on all sides which i think we need to get to as a society. the unyyoung people on the camps pack home who thought the war was wrong and tried to stop it also thought they were doing the right thing. partly because of politics as i'm sure we'll get to, and how our politicians have exploited this conservatischism and we fe need to choose between the two and i feel like we need to move beyond that. >> i want to move to the
protests itself and ask doug stanton, how early did protests for the war begin and where did they begin? >> much earlier than we think, '64, '65 and they began in d.c. and new york. what's interesting is how little of that, we're in the area of three networks and stan parker and his buddies in the midwest. how little that seemed to penetrate their consciousness. it was going on, but what lynne referenced earlier, from their experience, they're coming out of world war ii and they're not paying attention to the protest that is brewing. >> lynne? >> we're sort of small scale, we interviewed a guy named bill zimmerman who was very active in the civil rights movement and
very anti-war movement and he was invited to go to protest at a napalm factory. and it was a tiny movement, really, really small that really grew out of civil rights and the peace movement, the anti-nuclear movement. and in the fall of '65, as we began to escalate the troops in vietnam, he decided to go, and he said there were 25,000 people there. and that's when he started to feel, maybe there will be a mass movement. 25,000 is not what came later in '68, which we'll get to, but it was small, it was local, it was organic and it began to change as thewar escalated, and many
young people felt their friends and brothers and sisters would have to get involved. >> as far as the dmams of the protesting went, during this period of the vietnam war, lynn, remind us who marvin morrison and what he was known for. >> his story, i found absolutely devastating, he was a quaker with very strong beliefs in pacifism and felt very strongly that the war was wrong. and the -- didn't respect their rights and this became a major news story around the world. he actually went to the pentagon and set himself on fire right outside of secretary of defense
robert mcnamara's window. and i don't think he's so well remembered as he should be for an extraordinarily brave and perhaps insane act of civil disobedience, i don't think too many americans did that. there are too many examples, but it does speak to the kind of fervor that some people thought that the war was wrong and had to be stopped. but he does represent a very tiny, tiny minority of the american public. >> i want to go to the funny lines, if you look at the eastern and central time zones, 202-748-8001. and then we have a line for veterans and for vietnam war
protesters, 202-748-8003 is your number. we'll keep those on the line and maybe in about 10 minutes or so we'll start getting to your calls for lynn novick who is in new york and doug stanton who is inn washingt in washington. i want to put another name in front of you, who was tom hayden? >> tom hayden was one of the founders of the protest peace movement. and the mission came out from there and students for a democratic society. and as lynn said, the protest movement, when it begins to hit critical mass via the draft, people start to pay attention. and people i wrote about,
weirdly, as i sit here and listen, joined earlier and i just wonder what their experience would have been had they been a bit younger and before they had gone into the draft. >> i was just going to add because, yeah, in the making of our film, we had a chance to speak to veterans from many different phases of the war. and what doug said was true, the ones that went into the military in '65, '66 even '67 and people who joined up later in the war were doing so in a very different context based on what was happening in vietnam. and it was hard to hold on to your idealism of what war could stand for. and it's important to not lump
all veterans together as they all have one mind or that they all protested the war. there's different nuances between all these groups. >> i want to talk about the university of columbia in new york with the 1968 occupation, here's a look. >> the strikers were getting community support, they were getting blankets, find and clot money. . >> they tried to keep food out, record players out, but they were acting as stooges for the administration. >> you are going to stand here and not say anything? that's our only position. >> what about foods? >> no comment on food at the moment.
>> food! food! food! food! >> doug stanton, your reflection on that protest? >> it's funny, i had a teacher who was part of that protest. and i'm now good friends with him and it's -- this is another america that we're looking at when students take over the university, i think the new york police department had to actually come in and break that up and take the university back from the students. this, however, is democracy in action, that's what it looks like and i think that's what's interesting about our discussion today is that we're talking about the veterans and the protesters. >> lynn, when you see that video again, what comes to your mind? >> i had a chance to get to know one of the protesters as well.
she was a student at barnard, and her name is nancy lieberman, and she has a wonderful complicated story around all this. that conflict happened due to building a gym, and it had nothing to do with the vietnam war and it became about the war, including the military that -- a big question for a lot of students is what does our university role in the war? and they began to look around themselves and see, oh, you know, we're getting money from the defense department to do research into a certain kind of bombing, or whatever aspect of the war was affecting their life on campus. and it sort of got out of control. there's a lot of idealism, there's a radical movement within the student group, and there was the tension on the campus, as you can see, with the students they called the jocks,
write are the kind of, they referred to as right wing students, but the more conservative students didn't want this chaos and unrest, they just wanted to go to class and do their home work and didn't want to rock the boat. so you had this seemingly two different sides of the conflict. and there was a role for anyone there. and when the police came in, people were hurt. and it speaks to the people that run these institutions, they didn't know what to do, honestly, how to manage this kind of fervor, and violent protests, and it speaks to me what happens when the guard, the children of the elite turn against the old order and want to turn it upside down and nobody really knows what to do, there was a level of tragedy in all of this for what happened at
colombia. >> before we get to calls, i we want to talk a little bit too about the active military and returning as we talk about the homeland here, and we turn to doug stanton, these draft extensions, who could have avoided the draft and why? >> in 1960s? medical reasons, psychological reasons. yeah, it's interesting, marriage. you know, a couple of the guys i interviewed for 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 going to the war. i really want to go there. i would never get married in order to get out of the war. so that was really surprising to me. >> lynn novick, what were you as soldiers overseas hearing and seeing about support for the war here at home?
>> yeah, that also evolves over time, but several of the 10e8d soldiers or veterans we spoke to remembered reading about the stars and stripes anti-war newspaper and feeling very angry about that and getting newspapenewspaper s on a delay and feeling betrayed, like, we're here fighting this war and nobody's even supporting us. and that feeling was prevalent until 1968 for sure. and no one knew what was going on outside their area of operation. so if you're? a war, you can't understand the big picture, probably nobody could when it's happening,nd they're worried about following orders and surviving and probably those protests didn't help the soldiers field supported.
it caused this south of schism. but it was more complicated than that. i remember speaking to a sold year who was in the dmz maybe around 1968, and he was mexican american. and his sister back home started protesting the war. and she wrote and told him about that, at first he wasn't sure what she thought, but she said i'm protesting the war so you can come home. >> lynn novick is a documentary filmmaker, and she worked on "the vietnam war" and dog stanton, the author of "the odyssey, of echo company." >> this is a story of a recon that enters vietnam in 1962, i met one of the main characters in the book in afghanistan in
2005 when i was researching another book called "whore soldiers." and this guy grabbed my sleeve and said do you think anyone's interested in our story in vietnam? and he was still in the army. i think they want the welcome home they never had. this remainsunfinished war. it's like the northern alliance and the taliban. i traveled on a book tour for this and i was shocked in the way that vietnam is simmer s in the consciousness of many americans. and i heard a of a man i never said anything in the board room about vietnam.
and i had a little girl who said did my dad live through the vietnam war? but for many, there is a portal to that conversation. separate the war and soldier and go forward. >> lynn novick, go ahead, please. >> i agree with doug, that was my impulse why i wanted to make this film is that we sense this unfinished business, this fes r festerifeste festering wound that we never talked about or never really understood. we hoped by spending years and talking to people across the political spectrum, both here and vietnam that we would be able to shed some light on the story, and we were hoping, maybe expecting too much, but i don't think you can have rec reconciliation until you have the truth. and there's many truths here, it's not like there's one simple, clear narrative, but at least if we can agree on some of the varieties of perspectives
and what happened and some of the facts that have been obscure for so long, one of them is that our leaders before the war, back into is 50s, really never had confidence that we could win it. and yet they kept fighting it. so that's an important perspective to at least start with. and we have found from the reaction from the film, at least it's opened up conversations as doug's books have, to begin this conversation we have never really had. >> it's interesting -- there's so many great documentaries and books, especially "bright, shining light" that we have discussed for so long how we feel about the war, we in the capital w-e. but this becomes the defactor war, in the world war ii generation, it's a different question to ask them what they feel. because there's a lot of
unfinished business there, as you can imagine all the conversations that never happened in america because all 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 can't go into history without somehow putting a period at the end of the session, without talking about what happened in vietnam. >> we have a vietnam veteran on the line. phillip, good morning we understand you're calling from switzerland, is that correct? >> caller: that's true. >> i didn't say i was a vietnam ve veteran, i was in the air force from '61 to '65. >> thank you for clarifying sir. >> i was involved in the cuban missile crisis and i thought i was going to die the next day because i thought we would be at war. when i got to '65, i got to the
university, i had served in georgia from '63 3 to '65, ands involved in some anti-war protests, but when i started in '65, we would have a protest, and there would maybe be 20 people, it gararadually grew an grew and grew and in '67, i was expelled for and a anti-war sit. my brother-in-law was a kc-135 loom operator out of thailand, refueling the bombers and the fighter planes bombing vietnam. >> phillip, a question or comment for our guests? >> i >> caller: i'm sorry? >> a question or a comment for our guests this morning? >> caller: well, i was going to
talk about the division of families, wlhen i went home to y father after i got kicked out of the service, he said i should be hung for tremendous son. and i think we have that division today still here in america. >> the division of families, he brings up. >> i had a neighbor who had the same thing, the air force academy, he quit the air force academy because he didn't want to go into the service. we can't live like this. i don't know how you get beyond it, i think storytelling can help it. but this is not a productive way to live a country and have those kinds of divisions. >> we have a caller from gross point, michigan, denise. good morning to you. >> caller: c'68 was a pivotal
year for our whole culture. i'm the quintessential baby boomer born in 1950. in '68, i was a senior in high school and i started college at michigan state. i became involved in -- i had been in student government and wanted to become a politician, but when the war-as -- as abec 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 didn't seem fair. i got involved in the women's movement to protest some of the inequities for women. and in order to organize a protest. i called sdf to ask for their help. they sent somebody up to michigan, bill ayers and his boyfriend diana outen, and then
i became involved with them and wenting to an sds meeting in texas and the escalation in violence broke off, and signed a political paper, saying you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, the other faction of sds wrote an oppositi opposition piece that said you don't have to -- i stayed in sds and my interest was what was the reason for the war? i kept asking around trying to figure out why we were in vietnam, i didn't believe in the domino theory at all and it certainly wasn't worth sacrificing 52,000 guys my age. >> denise thank you for calling, lynn novak, that caller reminds me, i wanted to ask you about
women and minorities when it comes to t s ts to protesters, were the numbers in those areas and how impactful were they? >> i'm not an expert on the demographics. but i can tell you that the anti-war movement was led by men, women did play a huge part but did not have leadership roles. anden and nancy lieberman spoke about the protests, we were just there to help the guys and we weren't able to give a full and equal role. they weren't woke on the issue of women, i would say, to the degree they should have been. and in some way the anti-war movement incorporated the civil rights movement as well. so there's imperfect aspects of it for sure.
but if we take a step back, the idealism to protest inspired women, inspired people in the environmental movement and gay rights movements and other movements, so between civil rights and the other anti-war movement it sort of gave birth to many other kinds of movements that really were asking the same questions. what does it mean to be a citizen of democracy, and what are our ways to hold elected officials accountable and to demand change. i think the point about the schism in the anti-war movement is important also, there was a belie belief at this point, that protests weren't going to help, weren't going to change anything, and what you had to do was take up arms and move to a
more violent radical solution. and as we talked about, these were infantile fantasies, there's no way you can take over the united states, but it came out of a rage that peaceful protests didn't seem to be moving the dial. we have teenagers who seem to believe very strongly that something needs to happen. and unfortunately, the radicals out of the anti-war movement, they were very good at getting media attention. and i think sort of changed the conversation in a way that actually was very destructive to the ultimate ends that the peaceful protesters were trying to accomplish. >> let's hear from bill in wilmington, north carolina. bill, what would you like to say this morning? >> caller: i remember i got out of high school in 1965, and i knew i didn't want to go to college and i had no idea what i
wanted to do. and i assume i would end up getting drafted which i did in 1966 and i mean i was there and back before i was even 21. and i served at the 11th armored cavalry regiment which is one we don't hear too much about. and i have watched most of the series on pbs, and it was outstanding. but when i got out, i figured, it's like, 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 have never gone to see the wall, i don't want to go to see the wall. i personally did not have it that bad over there, i could have had it better, but i could have had it a lot worse. when i got out, i just said, that's it, that part is done, leave me alone and let me live the rest of my life. and i started to go to college, i lasted a couple of quarters,
still not knowing what i wanted to do. i never felt so out of place in my life once i got out, i was 21 then and taking classes is like a 15-year-old kid, and things are different between the ages of 18 and 21. now i'm retired. but all in all, in hindsight, i think the war was a mistake. >> bill, thank you for sharing your story. what did you think, doug? >> it's interesting that he didn't even want to go to see the monument, which tells me we kind of look at the wall, but we don't have the language yet, but thanks to documentaries like lynn's, we're getting there. what i found in my interview is a lot of veterans, and i'm talking about world war ii and afghanistan and others, they want to know who's watching.
who's watching out for us? in the heat of combat, trench, only tighti infighting to stay for your brother. see for the vietnam soldier, there was a sense of dislocation, that there was no one really authoring the moment, there was no one who had a principle about which they wrote a story. there were those that came -- world war ii, we knew the narrative, we knew the period on the end of the sentence was that was the good war. and it's just so interesting how in later life in this part of our 21st sen industcentury, we really look at storytelling and i would urge bill to go to the wall, because it really is the place of america's homecoming
for the vietnam war. when you go there, i was there yesterday, you see people essentially coming home to their own reflection in that black granite, looking at the name of the dead. >> i want to play a short clip from that documentary "the vietnam war." this is where the police clash with protesters. >> the cops were all, they were guys from the neighborhoods, itali italians, polish guys, irish guys, probably some of them had been in vietnam, and if they hadn't been, they certainly had cousins or brothers who were. >> phillip caputo who had fought with the marines in vietnam, was now a reporter, assigned to cover the conflict in american streets. >> so all of a sudden, the
streets are filled with these kids who don't look like college kids are supposed to look, in the cops' view. and some of them were committing vandalism and yelling obsceni obscenities. and i think a lot of policemen saw that as abusing the privileges that they had and scorning them. >> we do not want to confront them now, move back please. >> lynn novick, what can you
tell us about the perspective of the police and the national guard during this period? >> yeah, well, you know, i think we talk about this a lot today, that we would like our officers of the law to be trained in something we call deescalation, so if you're faced with a difficult situation, how do you get people to calm down and we saw the exact opposite happen in chicago and at kent state more tragically, where these young men wearing uniforms trying to keep order were not given the training about how to manage a difficult situation and there's an enormous amount of class resentment going on here. which still goss es on today. they see these young people protesting and they feel like that's being unpatriotic and they should just be quiet and serve their country. i'm quite sure that there were people in the police force and
national guard who may not have held those views. but they were in a very tough spot. and what is important to take away from the chaos at chicago is that after the fact, there was an investigation. and it was basically termed a police riot. so the students who were protesting were certainly being provocative. but the police and the national guard made the situation much worse unfortunately and television cameras captured it. and we interviewed a veteran who was very much 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 saw this chaos unfolding of people in uniform beating up protesters with clubs and hauling them off. and he thought for a second it was something to do with
czechoslovakia. he said it felt like his somebo like his dad beating up him. >> caller: i hope to tell my experience very concisely and then make a comment. in 1968, i graduated from high school. people from that time remember the lottery system that determined whether you would get drafted or not. my lottery number was 6, which meant that there was very little chance that i would not get drafted. i tried to be a conscientious obje objector, i wrote a letter to the draft board, i said that basically i could not ever imagine killing someone, especially someone they didn't know. i never really got an answer to that letter, except they acknowledged they received it. after a couple of years, i was in college, i developed a very
severe mental illness. and that happened, the draft board was no longer interested in me and they sent me a letter, i was classified as 4-f. i since removed from that illness, i'm glad to say. i participated in the anti-war demonstrations in washington in '70 and '71, the paper said there were a million people there, i can remember seeing jane fonda and bob hayes and 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 4, 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 happened because of what people saw of the war on tv. but the veterans who went, they did what they believed in, they thought they were doing the right thing. they followed orders. and what happened in the war was never their fault, it was the fault of the politicians. like nixon, johnson, and mcnamara. >> bill, thank you for sharing your situation and your obser observati observation. doug, you've written a lot about the homecoming experience. what do you think there? >> he really seems to have a lot
of empathy, for the, quote, other side, which is not really the other side. somebody i interviewed called stan parker. he was sitting in his airline seat and the person rang the bell and said i would like to be moved, and the flight attendant says, i know, we tried to find another staeat so you wouldn't have to sit next to him. and he said he looked in the window to see if he looked like a killer. and a famithey certainly were c home to a changed america. >> lynn, did you a want to add to that? >> i just wanted to say, because it's such a critical point about
how the veterans felt they were received and a lot of retrospect looking back. as doug said, no one story fits everyone's experience, but i think, you know, there may not have been nearly as much spitting, literal spitting as we might think, but there was a sense that they came home and no one thanked them, because we didn't win the war. or not that no one thanked themselves. and only two-thirds of the county -- here they came home one by one to a country so bitter divided about what they had just done. and then there was the conflagration of not only who was responsible, but this sort of spekcter of war crimes, rathr than the politicians that sent
th them. and there's a lot as doug has been saying for us to talk about what actually happened and who was really responsible, and the soldiers, or veterans were the next best thing for the public. you can't go and spit on rocket mcnamara, or yell at lbj, but here here's a soldier in uniform and so they were psychically wrong. and that's have wrong. it and we need to move forward as a country, that's very, very important. >> caller: thank you, very much, ms. novick, you won my heart, you brought up something very important to me. it brings almost tears to my eyes. growing up, i was one of those baby boomers, of that era, i grew up watching the war, the first war that was ever
televised on television, we would watch it every evening, with walter cronkite being embedded there many times. my father was a world war ii veteran and was pro vietnam et cetera in the very beginning, but as the war kept going for four, five years and our own senator allan cranston said enough is enough and he came home and said, we have got to pull out now. i graduated in '67, my father after listening to walter cronkite saying this war was beyond belief, allan cranston our senator said we have got to pull out now, i graduated in '67 among well over 700 students, very few, only a handful, 700 of us mind you, our pants sitting out there, from world war ii,
korea, possibly world war i, great grandparents et cetera were shocked when none of us stood up for the flag salute or the national anthem. that was our protest. >> comments of nancy there. lynn novick, want to respond? >> yeah, you know, it's painful for nancy and her generation to feel that they were trying to get a message across to their parents and grandparents and they weren't ready to hear it. as she said, her father did come around. and as the caller earlier said, he was in the service and he later realized the war was a mistake. so the shift did happen over time, but in that moment, it must have been extremely difficult and very brave to, look at the people you respect and say, you know what? you're not making the right decisions for us. we spoke in our film to a veteran named tom valele who was
very excited about joining the marines and serving his country, and while he was in vietnam, he ended up joining veterans against the war and threw away his medals, he wanted to send a message to the people in the administration saying i don't think you people know what you are doing. i think it was very brave to question a policy that at that time didn't make sense. >> if you look at the 1967 gulf of con quinn investigation, there are spurious reasons to go into a country and fight a war. but 18 years on now from afghanistan, those veterans are treated very differently. and i think it again has to do with the way that afghanistan in '01 was framed for us, and iraq,
obviously is another question entirely. but, i don't know, i just -- when i compare those two political moments, and then the outcome years later from each of them, just -- it's just tragedy it the way that the vietnam veteran was treated in the aftermath of an equally active chicanery. >> we have less than a half hour left of our guest lynn novick, a documentary filmmaker. and doug stanton is here, author of "echo company." and we have sandrafrom addelboro, massachusetts. >> caller: i had three family members who went over and joined up. one was my husband, two of my
brothers and my two brothers ended up going to vietnam direct and one was shipped to germany, the other stayed in vietnam. my husband was the latter part of the war. anyway, to make a long story short, my brother who went to vietnam ended up protecting the lumberyards at denang valley, or wherever it was when they had the big offense. and he later on had to be sent out because he had tumors, he didn't quite make the whole offensive and he wondered where his compradres are to this day, he comes over and checks on us at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. the man has never left vietnam actually. my husband was in -- over in bay
of pigs. when he came home to our family, we went to church, and while in church, we became the focus of -- my husband was dressed in his uniform and they started having like a thing about the soldiers and stuff like that. my husband couldn't have told me that it was about what he had gone through and everything else. it was terrible. and i never seen such things in my life. i was wondering, was the war about the lumberyards? because i was told that on the base up here in brockton. a man took us on tour of the helicopters and he said that they were shot up because of protecting the lumberyards over in vietnam.
and he knew it because he drove part of it himself. he had a son that was in the service too. >> sandra, thank you for calling. let's hear from doug stanton. do you recall? >> yes, it was about that and many other things. but i don't think it was just about the lumberyards and in denang if i understood it right. >> nathan in old school, connecticut. welcome, nathan. >> caller: thank you to c-span and thank you to all the moderators on washington journal who really do a fabulous job. the calls are wonderful. i loved nancy. and just as she said that 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 mohammed ali was punished and that's why mohammed ali is a hero to my generation. i think the war protesters were significant to ending the war because they drove linden johnson out of office. he knew he wasn't going to be re-elected. so he withdrew from possibility of nomination, i think that was because of the protesters put so much pressure on him. now my question for mr. stanton, who i think is a hero too. when robert mcnamara wrote his become about 15 years ago in which he said that they all knew that it was an unwinnable, untenable 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? >> lynn novick, i thought i saw you nodding your head for a second, did you want to respond? >> oh, i mean, i think a number of soldiers that we spoke with, in particular, carl marlantis who was a marine, who gave up a rhodes scholar to go to vietnam in '68, he wrote in the pentagon papers to mcnamara in '75 saying the chance of victory are one in three, but recommending escalation and johnson going along with it and revelations from mcnamara, saying it couldn't be won.
it ju we just kept escalating. and -- people make mistakes and policies can be wrong. but when you're lying, to protect your own ego, that's what he said, you know, and he, carl and many other soldier s went over to vietnam and did their duty and fought and killed and had their friends die for leaders who lied. and i have to say -- that's why i was nodding, i was just remembering carl and understanding that knowing what we know now, if they had been honest with the american public from the beginning, we would be having a very different conversation. >> calle . >> caller, go ahead please. it. >> caller: i would like to thank ms. novick for one of the most important documentaries i have ever seen.
i am from a northeastern family who got involved in civil rights protesters very early on. i was born in 1960, so these people were heroes of mine as i grew up, and i guess my question to both mr. stanton and ms. novick is, in 2018, where is the civil disobedience, and where is the outrage over the war in iraq and the war in afghanistan that's going on now much longer than the vietnam conflict. >> thank you for calling, mark. doug stanton, why don't you take that one? >> the first interview i did with a soldier is are we still in afghanistan? 18 years in afghanistan. i have three nephews and a lot of family members who are in the service now, or have been, but i'm an anomaly among my friends, where are the protests? where are the people fighting
this war? it -- you know, we could debate whether or not we should bring the draft or public service back. but if we did either one of those and tied it to our foreign policy, we would see immediate more public engagement with this issue that he raises. >> i want to play a trailer for the documentary, "hit and stay." and it's about the kaytonsville nine? >> i believe these were the draft women who went into the school in maryland and tried to destroy draft records and basically i think they poured blood, or they poured blood on draft records or draft files so the service would not be able to do their job, and it was a very famous trial about civil
disobedien disobedience. i believe it was the barrigan brothers who actually led this protest. there's civil disobedience, and there's nonviolent protests and there's many different forms that can take. and there's many other forms of civil disobedience, than just showing up at a rally. you could get people to come, but it didn't move the dial on the movement. and so i think some of these tactics were ways to shake things up. and many people of conscious thought the war was so wrong. and we talk about the 58,000 americans who died, and every name on the wall as doug said was a tragedy and you should go there. but there were 3 million vietnamese that were killed. and you forget our country's role in the deaths of millions
of people. certainly the vietnamese played a part. many of the people who died were killed by north vietnam or viet cong, but vietnam munitions were also taking part. and that was at the root of the need to stop the war. but also to stop our country and our policy from killing vietnamese people who hadn't done anything to us. >> more of your calls in a moment. but here's the trailer for that new documentary "it's called hit and stay". it runs about two minutes. >> i believe we are in such times as making it increasingly impossible for christians to obey the law of the land and to remain true to christ. >> but at the height of the vietnam war, nine catholics entered this board in kayto
kaytonsville, maryland, they brought these books and -- >> they stood afternoon and they were talking amongst themselves and they were praying and waiting for the fed to show up. >> we knew this was drama, this was not just politics. this was vote ter. >> i think the catonsville 9 started things -- >> this was a series of actions. >> 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 create a federal felony. >> we didn't try to escape, we waited for arrests, we used the trial as an educational medium. >> we put vietnam on trial and we also put the fbi on trial. >> i do not sympathize with the burning of draft cards, i think that's very un-american.
>> we were unthreatening people. >> i remember one comment about the prosecutor, these people are a greater threat to the security of this nation, than organized crime. he said that in open court. >> i think 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 powerfulless criminals in a time of criminal power. we have chosen to be branded as peace criminals by war criminals. >> and i should clarify, that was a trailer for the 2013 documentary "hit and stay and resistance." we want to hear from doug stanton on what you just saw and reflections on the catonsville nine. >> it's hard to imagine how we can get civic engagement at that level today to talk about our own policy. i'm 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. and while that's -- you know, this is so interesting, because we have so many people calling in and i know we're going to get to those calls, but if we were to do this about korea or even afghanistan or iraq, what we're hearing in these calls is a sense of that want to be heard. people want to be heard when they say, this is what happened to me in vietnam. and i'm glad to hear from them, because we talk so much about the protests, but i really think when we get to what it felt like for these guys. it's my contention, i know it's lynn's too, that this is perhaps an unhealthy blister on the american soul that needs to be lanced. >> let's hear from more callers,
jeff from forrington, connecticut, thank you for waiting. hi, jeff. >> caller: yes, good morning. >> go ahead, please. >> caller: i spent two tours of duty in vietnam, i was drafted, and i shouldn't have been drafted. i was an only son and vision care, they still drafted me and all the friends that i was in vietnam with, i was in mobile construction battalion 121 and mcd- mcd-40. i was a navy person and all of them are dead and i'm still alive. i'm still having problems to this day with my situation. >> what kind of problems? >> for example, the other day i was at my town hall and an individual told me i wasn't honorably discharged, right on
my de-13 it said honorable, but the guy gave me a hard time. i have been expose to agent orange, i have prostate cancer, but they don't care, nobody cares. >> the story of jeff there. let's hear the story of alvin, then we'll get back to our guestguest s, peoria, arizona, alvin? >> caller: yes. first of all i want to thank ken burns, he's doing a terrific job, i followed him. not only "the civil war" but baseball, et cetera, et cetera. 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 and then the class in between was sent someplace else and i served in the seventh infantry division in korea. but i did follow vietnam very closely and i was young, naive and wanted to serve my country. and that's why i enlisted. but at any rate, i made e-5 fairly quickly because i was in great shape, exercised, the whole nine yards, so when i got out, i went to college in 1967. and at that time, i was really following vietnam and i was in my sophomore year when the tet offensive occurred. so what i did is, i started researching how we got into vietnam and our involvement and i think the real untold story of vietnam is the beginning of our involvement in vietnam, which
dated back to 1942, and i think that's the real untold story. and if people want to understand vietnam, they have to understand the cause and effect of how we got into vietnam. >> alvin, thank you for calling. lyn novick, your response to alvin? >> yes, i completely agree, in our film which is 10 parts, 18 hours, ken burns and i decided to go back to actually the 19th century, and the french involvement in vietnam and we did go back to world war ii and we did get involved in vietnam because waee were trying to fig a common enemy which was japan. and we did have ho chi minh. and the communists were our enemy. and everything kind of flowed from there. but the initial involvement had to do with the dynamics of the
second world war. and one tragedy of the many tragedies of the vietnam war, there were several things that happened after the vietnam war, which we understand is the effect of decolonization, the french, the belgians, they were no longer able to have colonies in the free world and those colonies were going do demand self-determination and there was a strong nationalist current and the russians and the chinese supported these movements and we therefore opposed them and that became sort of irreconcilable conflict that got us into vietnam and had kind of a momentum of itself own. mcnamara said that vietnam has a momentum of its own and it has to be stopped. and it's true, once you start something, it's very hard to
start. i think the reason why we got in were important, but the reason why we stayed in, the number of american leaders who kept it going even throw it was built on a house of cards. >> i wanted to get your caller. said poorly treated but up to present day. he said nobody cared. it goes back to the idea of nobody is watching. nobody is in charge. and what one of the things i did and two people i wrote about went back to vietnam. back to the beginning of where this all happened and that provided some sense of reconciliation with their younger selves. and the other caller mentioned, you know, when you travel the streets, this is the american war, of course. it's not called the vietnam war.
i think it's important to take a step to telescope out from that. yes, one could argue that the debt offensive was a military defeat because they lost so many people. tens of their thousands of their soldiers were killed. on the surface that could look like a decisive turning point in the war for them. what we have to keep in mind and what our leaders understood, even though they weren't telling the american people at this at the time was that north vietnam has a healthy birthrate. they have no interest in stopping fighting. they might go back and look their wounds for a year, two, three, four but they'll be back. they're not going to walk away.
it wasn't decisive for them. so understoodi -- understanding where they were coming from. that's why the wisemen said you have to get out. so walter cronkite didn't know any of that. and you know what he was looking at was this is unsustainable for the american people. also, what is at stake you know what are we fighting for? what is the cause? what it the risk to our country if we don't win the war. do we throw more young men into the fight to justify the lives of those that have been lost. there's a lot going on below the surface. i think walter cronkite becomes the lightning rod in a way that we have to take a little bit longer, wider view to appreciate the context. >> doug stanton, i want to ask you about congress, as well. we'll show a clip from march
8th, 1968. a white house phone call talking about a meeting with members of the senate foreign relations committee. and the majority leader is talking about the state of the war in vietnam. >> we had a three hour meeting the other night, mansfield had nothing to say. i've done everything i could -- we've got to get out of there. that's my purpose. any contract based on fraud and misrepresentation there's no contract at all. and congress does have some responsibility now on an
exercise. we've been here three hours. we play president and tell me what you would like me to do. what do you recommend? how it's tearing its society to pieces and dividing us here and hurting us throughout that. >> what was the role of congress during this period of trying to contain the war and reacting to the protest? >> i think that the clip showed is that they're starting to take a reactive role. they're coming forward. this is march of 1968, the previous caller said that cronkite had been 180 degrees off from the kind of tactical
achievement of the tet. what i want to point out, it guys guys -- goes to the johnson clip, the tet offensive was 180 degrees off what they were saying in the summer of '67 which is we're close to the light at the end of the tunnel. it's not as if cronkite is coming out of the blue with this summation he had. and then, of course, you have johnson here just kind of being twirled on the wheel of indecision between the politicians and congress who are feeling this blowback from the country and watch the tet unfold in color on their tv screens. >> michael in bernardino, california. good morning, michael. >> caller: good morning. i want to say that -- make this quick. my father was in the army. i thought it was my duty to go
to vietnam, and when i got there, i was -- one of the highest ranking officers died. then president nixon visited us in '69, and then i got out and i was walking through an international airport on may 4th, 1970, and i really felt like i was -- they looked at me. everybody was looking. but now it's turned around. i had great experience with the va. of the persian people. of persian gulf soldiers said don't celebrate without us. i was welcomed home in 2010.
>> thank you, michael. to roger in pennsylvania and then back to our guests. hi, 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 a little differently. i went to college with a lot of vietnam vets and i had a business partner that was ahmed a medic in vietnam. i disagree. everybody wanted to hear the stories. i don't ever remember anybody talking down to them. everybody seemed to hold them in a high esteem. we got a lot of higher end work in north jersey because my friend was a vietnam vet and people wanted to hire him and hear his stories. my father was a platoon sergeant in the philippines, i mean, world war ii. came home and never talked about
the war. he went through hell. 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. and i think the vietnam vets and the vets should shut up, do their job, and go to work. just like my father did. the great generations. >> anything from the last couple of callers you want to respond to? >> wow, well, yeah i think what we can see already there's many versions. we all have our narratives and they don't always line up. it's a big country and there's a lot of variety of experience. so i think on the one hand, it's absolutely true that sometimes, especially if soldiers came home around '69 or '70 it was a painful difficult time. they were sort of targeted as the closest thing you could find what was happening to criticize. then there are plenty of soldiers, veterans that came home and went about their lives.
one of the great legacies of the vietnam generation, they didn't keep quiet, in a way. so, you know, they demanded better care from the va. they complained or, you know, called attention to what became known as post-traumatic stress disorder. at first it was called post vietnam syndrome. there was a sense if you were through combat, something might have happened psychologically and physically and psychologically and it didn't feel right. the vm veterans kind of held our government accountable to some degree. we have to take care of soldiers when they come home. it's a big uphill climb. but that's an important legacy. and you know what has been moving is to see we've had experiences of seeing the generation of soldiers that fought in the most recent 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 in parades and various welcome home ceremonies. so there's kind of an intergenerational warrior community that is powerful. >> let's get to ronald in michigan. hi, ronald. >> caller: hi. i was -- in '69. and the reason i'm calling is the war crimes that happened in world war ii. i mean, vietnam, sorry. i'm very nervous. i'm just -- one was lynn. she slipped out of -- and i think that's the proper word. the vietnam war was an illusion we should never have been there. if you have any history of vietnam, ho kyi min, since world
war i has tried its best to lead its country. he went to china for help and the chinese didn't like him. their priorities was party, country, and et. cetera. his was country, party, et. cetera. and they didn't like that. so he went back to vietnam and started his -- one last thing is please the vietnam vets please tell your story to your family. it's a lost history, and the other thing is going to do this is to write the vietnam embassy in washington and apologize to them for the war. >> thank you, ronald. tell the story, doug. something you touched on earlier. >> the caller before that said
he came home and the guys wanted to hear his stories about being in vietnam, which is all the difference when you have an audience whose going to be listening. so i would urge him to say today to the vietnam veterans not to say to them shut up but listen to their story and move on. we don't have to do anything with these stories. i think the most biggest lesson i learned is we have to acknowledge. we can't fix the pain but we can listen and become that audience. >> lynn, final thought? >> oh, wow. for our colleagues that worked on this film, we had the privilege of spending ten years of listening to people tell us their stories both in america and vietnam. one of the things that was profound for me was i made four trips to vietnam over the course of the project and talking to veterans and civilians there. there's a lot of unfinished business in vietnam, as well. their country is still unreconciled about what happened
during the war and who is responsible and whether it was worth the cost. even though on the winning side they have the private victory. it's still enormously painful and difficult subject. and the impulse to listen to each other and be present and hear each other's stories. the vietnamese have seen our victim has been translated to vietnamese and is streaming there and millions of people have streamed it. it's opening up a kind of conversation they haven't had, as well. i think that speaks to this sort of fundamental human need to know ourselves and each other before we can go anywhere. and my life has been changed by the privilege of hearing so many stories of heroism and sacrifice on all sides. people who believed in what they were doing. and some people who are carrying an enormous amount of baggage about what happened. i agree with doug, the more we can share our stories and listen to each other, the better it will be. >> thank you for joining us.
>> thank you. >> thank you. >> great conversation. thank you. >> thank you. we say thank you to doug stanton. appreciate your time. >> thank you. you're watching american history tv. all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. american history tv is looking back 50 years to the political turmoil of 1968. up next "generations apart: a profile of dissent." this cbs broadcast from may 27th, 1969 focuses on youth and their parents in the bolder colorado area and explores their opinions about the vietnam war, the generation gap, racial tensions, and their views on dissent. this was the second of a three-part program based on a cbs national opinion survey of about 1300 young people between the ages of 17