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tv   1968 - America in Turmoil 2018 Vietnam War  CSPAN  December 31, 2018 10:36am-12:06pm EST

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>> that concludes our nine-part series. we want to thank elizabeth cobbs from texas a&m and the hoover institution and mark kramer from harvard. to you and all of the guests who have participated in this series, we thank you. next on american history tv, from our series "1968 america in turmoil." a look pack at the vietnam war covering the major military, political and diplomatic developments that year. our guests are vietnam veteran and former navy secretary jim webb and author david marinus. we begin with a video on the state of the war in 1967 produced by the u.s. naval photographic center. >> these marines have just returned from a tough battle in the north. they are now on a defensive perimeter. their weapons are cleaned and cared for before thought can be given to personal comfort. a matter of importance in the life of a professional fighting
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man. this is neither a clean nor easy life for our men, but they have learned to accept the physical hardships of battle as their fathers did before them. in their famous hymn, here in vietnam, except for snow, they prove it. from the soft ooze of the rice paddies, they move on through swift running canals and streams. then push forward into the jungles that frames the mountains, vines tang le the fet and giant trees cut off the sun. each and every step must be a cautious one for the viet cong have prepared to weigh with might bes and booby traps.
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watch your step. a cruelly cunning trap only digs deeper as you fight to pull away. a hidden shell sits waiting for the unwary foot and you'll never know which innocent looking piece of grass or fern covers a poison bamboo spikes. marine engineers must constantly sweep the roads and trails in search of killer mines. the troops must provide a scene of security. it is necessary to constantly patrol the outlying villages and countryside, to deny re-entry to the viet cong. marines initiate literally hundreds of small patrols and ambushes each week, but one of the most difficult jobs in this war without a front is to distinguish friend from foe.
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each person must be searched and identified. whether vc is turned up and captured by combat, they are treated with fairness under the international rules of the geneva convention. marines have found such treatment of a cruel enemy frequently results in the proffering of information that reveals the whereabouts of an enemy force. in possession of such knowledge, marines react quickly, plans are formulated and a striking force moves out swiftly. as they move in on the enemy position, they are met by intense small arms fire that results in some casualties, but the attack is carried to the enemy stronghold. [ gunfire ]
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and again, that film from 1967 with the narration of jack webb, as we begin our conversation looking back 50 years ago. 1968, a year in turmoil. a special series here on the c-span networks. we're pleased to welcome jim webb, the author of "i heard my country calling," a graduate of the u.s. naval academy. senator, thanks very much for being with us. >> nice to be here. >> and david meritus, author of how many books now? >> 12. >> one of them "they marched in the sunlight." let me begin early in 1968. who was winning the vietnam war? >> no one was winning. everyone was losing. >> why? >> for a lot of different reasons. the united states government without telling the public this, they had already decided they
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didn't know how to win the war or weren't necessarily wanting to win the war. it was -- the public -- more than 50% of the people supported the war but it was unknown what was going to happen next. i would say that everyone was losing at that point. >> you were at the naval academy in the 1960s. what was that like as you and your colleagues were preparing to serve in combat? >> i got to the naval academy in 1964, right when the gulf of tonkin incident occurred, graduated in 1968, right after the tet offensive, and people seemed to understand pretty clearly that there were objectives over there. i think the best place to start on the question you asked david, what is it that we were attempting to achieve and how could you even measure that now? there's a latin saying, we saw now how the war ended but what
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was it looking like in 1968. first of all, there were valid strategic reasons for us to go into vietnam. if you look at the east asian region as a whole coming out of world war ii, it was torn apart by war. japan receded back into the boundaries and the european colonial powers had left, and there was a lot of turmoil in terms of governmental systems and economic systems. we had the korean war, and there was a legitimate international communist movement. we can smile a little about that now, but it was legitimate. and ho chi minh had trained in moscow for years. he had a great exchange between him and stalin back in 1924. the question is, how do you fight the war, number two, and what was going on back here with dissent movements in terms of articulating our objectives. when i was in vietnam, on any given day as a marine, on any given day, we were fighting
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three different wars. we were fighting a conventional war against north vietnamese and vietcong main forces. we were fighting an insurgency war, and we were fighting a terrorist war, which this country really didn't understand at that time. that's the reason that john kennedy decided to put american troops in vietnam in 1961. the communist assassination squads were killing 11 government officials a day. so how do you take all of that and say who was winning and who was losing in the middle of that sort of turmoil? it's pretty hard to say. >> let me take senator webb's point about the objective. if you look at the documentary, it really shifted from the time of truman through john kennedy. when u.s. troops moved into vietnam. was it a shifting objective by 1968? >> by 1967, late 1967, the policy had shifted.
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yes. defense secretary mcnamara had basically -- this hadn't come out yet, the pentagon papers hadn't come out yet, but they basically decided that they were not going to win the war and the best they could do was a stalemate. that's what they were dealing with at that time. the war has to be dealt with in three ways. one is the military, which jim was part of. one is the policy, which is completely different. and the third is society and what was happening in the united states at that time. >> that's outlined in your book "they marched into sunlight." i want to put three components on the table. you have the anti-war demonstrations around the country, including madison, wisconsin. you had dow chemical and the napalm bombings and the deaths of so many people in vietnam. tie the three together. >> it wasn't just napalm, it was also agent orange that dow made. and the protest at the university of wisconsin in
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october of 1967 was the first student protest that turned into a violent confrontation on a campus. it was against dow chemical company recruiting on the campus at a time when some students were vehemently opposed to the war. there's an interesting connection that you can only make in retrospect, which is that as much as these students were protesting the war for a combination of idealism and self-interest that they didn't want to fight in the war, they were also opposing two chemicals, which had a profound negative effect on the soldiers and all the people of vietnam. napalm was destroying villages and was also working as a weapon in that war. but agent orange had the most long-term effect on the people of vietnam and soldiers, many of whom i've dealt with over the years, who fought in 1967 and are dying of bladder cancer in
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their 60s, and often because of the effects of agent orange. >> jim webb, did you see that? >> did i see agent orange? yeah, i was in areas where it was used. but at the same time, let's again take a look at the framework under which this war was being fought. i think it was the most complicated war that the united states has ever had to fight. it's not necessarily a negative thing to say at this point, but maybe a stalemate given the strategic circumstances and the power of the anti-war movement here was an acceptable goal at a certain point, just like north korea versus south korea. just like east germany versus west germany. that's the way a lot of people, including myself, looked at what we were attempting to do. can you preserve a portion of a country and develop an incipient democracy and then over time have something different come
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out of it. south korea versus north korea is a great example. the other thing that i think should be remembered is that there were -- of the extreme left, there were people who had revolutionary goals in this country that didn't connect with vietnam at first. the great example of that was the students for a democratic society, the sds, which was the vanguard of a lot of these more violent protests. they were formed in 1962 with the port huron statement at the university of michigan. they thought race would be the issue with which they could galvanize america into revolutionary change. the war came along, the war affected everyone potentially every family potentially. and it folded into these other issues that they were debating. you know, the north vietnamese -- i spent a lot of time in vietnam since the war. during the war and since the war. and i've written ten books,
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several of them also about vietnam. this was a memoir partly about vietnam. and the -- i've met with the leaders in the north and the people who fought. and one of the key characters, he was the colonel who was on the palace grounds at the very end in 1975. he later said that the rear front of the communist effort was here to galvanize the anti-war movement and demoralize the war. that folded into, as david said, a lack of clarity on the political and strategic objectives. and the other thing that i think needs to be said, because it isn't talked about enough, is the policy of the communist government since 1958. that's classic policy of trotski communism, to have assassination as a key element of a strategy.
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they would go after people who were a part of in any way the leadership of south vietnam. 11 government officials a day by 1960, when john kennedy decided we needed to do something. we didn't know how to do that. we had incidents that were regretful and disgusting. generally, they were the result of emotional overload and people just blowing it. they were aberrations of our policy, legally or morally. that's not true on the other side. when you look at hue, which was talked about and used as an example in a number of these documentaries, communists killed 2,000 south vietnamese people, assassinated them when they had temporary control. we don't hear them talking about
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that. >> let me remind our audience, there's a number of ways to engage in the conversation. we have divided our phone lines. if you are a vietnam veteran, we would love to hear from you. there is a poll on who is winning in 1968. we would love to have you participate and share your thoughts on that as well. david maraniss. >> i'd like to disagree with some of that. i think you can take the sts and the revolutionary guard of the united states as one thing, but that doesn't represent the anti-war movement which was vastly more diverse than that and motivated toward other things rather than just trying to have a revolution in the united states. >> by the way, i would agree with you. >> i think that was a little bit of a stretch to take it to that place. there were very valid reasons to oppose this war that had nothing to do with that.
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secondly, on the vietnamese side, i agree completely that the anti-war movement was naive about thinking this was just a civil war and that it was involved in the south and the north vietnamese and the soviet union, and to some extent china who were helping control it, which they were. nevertheless, that doesn't make the war itself valid just because of that and it doesn't make the american response valid as we'll see in 1968. >> referring to the tet lunar new year, what was the objective by the military? >> there was actually a debate within the north vietnamese military over whether to do it or not. the most famous north vietnamese general, jeff, opposed it. but there was a stronger side that prevailed. the tet lunar new year, january 31st, 1968, and what they decided was they would have a massive attack everywhere they
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could to try to discombobulate the americans and the south enemies and have a publicity effect on everything. it was a debate whether it would be worth it or not. they knew there would be a lot of casualties, which, in fact, happened. in a sense the vietcong and the north lost in terms of the military aspects of it but won in terms of publicity. >> this is the south vietnamese army explaining what happened. in 1968 and in the tet offensive. it runs about a minute and a half. >> at the end of january 1968. saigon was alive with prospective spirit as everyone prepared for the tet lunar new year. for the people of vietnam, it is both a sacred and enjoyable time of the year. this was to be the first spring of the second republic of vietnam. the north vietnamese seemed to promise the people a safe holiday free from the ever-present anxiety of war. at the temple,
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people gathered to pay respects to their ancestors. on the eve of the new year, thousands of saigon families prayed before the altars of their ancestors. they prayed peace might be restored to the homeland. however, the traditional firecrackers of the tet celebration became the fireworks of war. the vietcong taking advantage of the noisy celebration launched an attack on saigon. areas of the city became a blazing inferno. columns of smoke rose skyward and block after block in the capital city burned with the fires of vietcong treachery. >> that film from the south vietnamese army taking place late january, 1968. two months later, president lyndon johnson would announce that he would not seek another term, but the speech was primarily on vietnam and the tet offensive.
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here's what lbj said march 31st, 1968. >> their attack during the tet holidays failed to achieve its principal objective. it did not collapse the elected government of south vietnam or shatter its army, as the communists had hoped. it did not produce a general uprising among the people of the cities as they had predicted. the communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. and they took very heavy casualties. but they did compel the south vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities. they caused widespread disruption and suffering.
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their attacks and the battles that followed made refugees of half a million human beings. the communists may renew their attack any day. they are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in south vietnam, the year that brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least a turning point in the struggle. >> again, march 31st, 1968, and jim webb, you were wrapping up your tenure at the u.s. naval academy. you heard the speech? >> yeah, i'm sure i did. i know what he said. >> so what was happening in this time frame? >> here's what i think we need to do. i know this is a show about 1968, but it's very difficult to talk about the vietnam war and freeze frame it into one year or even a few months out of one year. >> certainly.
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>> and by the way, my wife was born in vietnam during the tet offensive in 1968 and her family remembers it well. they became refugees after the fall of saigon. one thing you will see in the communist strategy on the vietnam war is every presidential year, they were able to mobilize some sort of an offensive that would get the attention over here, and that's one thing that happened in tet '68. by the way, this is kind of interesting because we just showed a clip of a south vietnamese explanation, and in so many of these other documentaries we're seeing, you get straight propaganda footage out of hanoi about what their soldiers were doing, and we get direct interviews with the american marines and soldiers who are reminiscing in a personal way and they sat next to each other, and people can be led to one conclusion or another.
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winning, military, the 27th anniversary of saigon's fall, hanoi announced they lost 1.4 million soldiers dead. 1.4 million soldiers dead. we lost 58,000. vietnamese lost 240,000. but clearly on the battlefield, our people did their job. in terms of articulating our message, it was very difficult, one, because it was an evolving message. it was pretty unclear as to what goals were going to continue as the situation changed over there. but, you know, i can remember reading about tet '68 in the "washington post." peter braves was a marine who had been wounded in north korea, spent three years over there. you could read the front page of the "washington post" and have straight-up, factual reporting
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for a battle, and then you get to the editorial and then to the political pages and these political people, and i've been a political person over there, this isn't working. it's time to do something else. very difficult for the country to process what a win, what a loss was, until much later. even though, as david was saying, the tet offensive was a military failure, that's not what was being reported at the time. by a lot of the journalists over there. >> in one final point, we're going to go. let's put this in perspective. you had the tet offensive in 1968. >> for killed during the tet offensive than the war. >> then you have president johnson's speech -- >> then you have the election where he gets four votes over
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lyndon johnson. then you have ted kennedy entering the race. you have two anti-war candidates running against johnson. he's about to lose the wisconsin primary the next day when he decides not to run march 31st. >> and on february 27th, 1968, walter cronkite says this. for it seems now more certain than ever, that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. how significant was that back then? >> there were only three networks then. walter cronkite was considered the voice of america, so that content was vitally important. lbj used to say that an army was two divisions. and probably walter cronkite was an entire army. >> our conversation with david marinis and jim webb the author
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of nearly a dozen books, former u.s. senator, former navy secretary, and let's get to your phone calls. james here in washington, d.c., a veteran of the vietnam war. go on, please. >> caller: thank you. half of my class in south carolina, 21 boys, 12 were vietnam veterans. i was at placu. there was over 8,000 americans, nurses, soldiers, marines would volunteer for vietnam almost every year of the war, and you could not get none of the president to get v.a. to move on the backlog of people waiting two and three years, entry people like myself cannot get our claims moved at the v.a. hospital for claims, year after year, they can't make our claims.
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>> thank you for the call. >> thank you, and you dealt with that in the senate. >> i dealt with it first of all as a vietnam veteran serving as the counsel on the congress. back in 1977 i worked on the veterans committee. i've been working on veterans' issues either public or pro bono, and i'd like to say to the gentleman who called, i appreciate very much your stepping forward and serving and there's been a great misunderstanding in this country about how proud people who served in vietnam are. we did a harris survey when i was on the political council, 1980. a $6 million poll about attitude toward veterans. 91% were glad they served and 74% enjoyed their time in the military and two out of three saying knowing the end result of the war they would go back again. in terms of the va, when i got to the senate in '07, the va backlog was 600,000 claims.
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when i left, it was 900,000 claims. and part of that was the increasing difficulty of the system with attorneys involved in a way they hadn't been before in the litigation. but a lot of it was just plain leadership inside the va. i worked very hard on that. and one of the other lessons from vietnam is that the g.i. bill for the people who served in vietnam was miniscule compared to the world war ii g.i. bill which enabled the futures of 8 million of our 16 million world war ii soldiers. and i wrote and passed when i was in the senate for 16 months, the post-9/11 g.i. bill which is the best g.i. bill in the history of the country. i'm very proud of that. >> david maraniss. >> i just want to say that everything that happened in
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the v.a. is a reminder in a wars doesn't end when the battle ends. they go on with the people who fought in them. >> good morning. >> caller: good morning, gentlemen. how are you doing today? the question about winning a war to me, the people who won the war are the people who supplied bombs and bullets in vietnam. and any war thereafter. regarding the incident that i read, and i double checked that prior to the tonken, they ran with the vietnamese, the south vietnamese against the south vietnamese, so the incident at tonken was supposed to be pushed back to the lines. i work for the v.a. and i see disability claims and these
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claims are fraught with incidents of undiagnosed illness, chronic fatigue. not bombs or bullet, but this is the kind of stuff, this war and the vietnam war has brought to us and we don't seem to get the message that we've got to keep our young men and women safe and not put them in this kind of harm's way. thank you very much and have a great day. >> this goes back to your comment about agent orange. >> yes, very much so. there is a lot of different aspects to that. every war has a material aspect of it and people benefiting from the war. you can make an argument that the war is fought because of that. i disagree with that. i think it's a by-product because of it. war is fought for policy, whether it is right or wrong, and not for the economics of it. >> we are beginning a nine-part
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series here on c-span and c-span3 american history tv. we're pleased to welcome you to our program as we look at the 1968 vietnam war. david marinis -- >> can i make a comment about the gentleman who made the comment about who wins, first of all, with respect to issues like agent orange, i worked with those in 1970. i counseled trying to find the nexus between the use of -- actually it's -- dioxin is a component inside agent orange. people think everywhere trees went down dioxin was. it has taken a long time to get that to a place where we can resolve that for veterans who were affected. the man who created singapore was one of the most brilliant minds in the last 100 years in east asia. he repeatedly used to say that the united states' effort in vietnam actually created a win for the region because it slowed down these sorts of
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revolutionary movements and it allowed these other countries to invigorate new governmental systems and economic systems. i think when we put in the formula the attempt that we made to preserve an incipient democracy there that there were very strong, positive, long-term results out of that. >> there are also more than a million vietnamese deaths and 58,000 american deaths. >> was the u.s. winning the vietnam war in 1968? that's our question on twitter at c-span history. right now, again, unscientific but we appreciate your participation. 38% said yes, 62% said no. here at the table, david maraniss of the "washington post" and david webb. former u.s. senator and author of ten books himself. we'll go to mike at alexandria,
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virginia. another vietnam veteran. >> caller: hello. washington and the world that's listening to this station. i have direct knowledge about why the vietnam war went on. it goes all the way back to the turn of the century when the french went there and the economists went there to take charge of indochina, it was called, and they utilized it as a stepping stone for their economy of rubber plantations and opium. >> david maraniss, is that correct? >> i would say when you go to vietnam -- jim has been there almost every year, i go there for my book. you will see that in the perspective of the vietnamese today, america is the country they hate the least out of the french, the chinese and the americans.
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because the french colonized them and that's a far different thing than fighting a war. yes, i think the french aspect there was totally economic and those rubber plantations were a vital part of that. >> senator webb, a key part of this, general william west moreland. how does vietnam view his role? >> let me say something here. i think it's an important part of how we process this war. i hope more people in this country will talk to the vietnamese-american community, and you will learn about a lot of stakes that were at play during this war that we never talk about. yes, the french colonized vietnam. by the way, when you talk to the vietnamese, and i speak vietnamese and i can get away from the translators -- the japanese were the worst occupiers of vietnam. they starved about a million
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vietnamese by taking rice out and sending it to japan. to the war. they have a long colonial history, but the question in this post-world war ii period, is how does vietnam move forward away from a colonial system? there were a number of anti-french political groups and leaders that were also anti-communist, and a great percentage of them got killed before we got there, when ho chi minh was taking over and solidifying the communist system. a lot of the vietnamese who were on our side, we continually forget about this. 245,000 of them died on our side. a million of them were sent to re-education camps after the war. some of my friends, 13 and a half years after the war, were at reeducation camps after the war.
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came here and built a system that, if it had been a place over there, you would see vigorous culture. i'll be very patient working to recreate the bond of overseas vietnamese and the communist government. but there was a lot of stake for how that would turn out. >> i think both is true. i think both is true. i think that there were common interests strategically for us and governmentally and politically for them. they've been great americans. >> i go back to my earlier point about general westmoreland. how does history view his involvement in this? >> i don't want to sum that up. it's just out of the area of where i spent my time.
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i will say this for the united states marines who were in vietnam, we sent 400,000 marines to vietnam. 133,000 of them were killed and wounded, more total casualties than any other war. and i will tell you, every war has its down sides, but in terms of serving their country and doing their job, they were the finest people i've ever been around. >> from my perspective, westmoreland was a disaster. at the key point of my book in october of 1967, westmoreland was the one pushing the hardest to say that this war could be won as battles of attrition. just go out, search and destroy, find the enemy and fix them in place and kill them. >> you point out in your book, lyndon johnson was saying give me numbers that reflect that. >> i want to get your opinion of walter cronkite again. this is what he said. for it seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of vietnam is to end
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in a stalemate. again this is february of 1968. you're about to graduate from the academy and serve our country. how significant was this on the home front? >> actually, a factual correction. walter cronkite made a different broadcast that i don't think was widely published but a different tape saying something when he was finishing his time in vietnam, saying something more positive than that. in terms of a stalemate, here's what i was believing and i still believe when i went into vietnam. first of all, i had just taken four years of education from the naval academy to learn to serve my country. the war was not going to go away and they needed leadership. that's what i did. i used to tell people on the
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political side of this, five years from now, six years from now i'll come back and tell you what i really think. but one of the things that i saw -- we keep mocking vietnamization, these guys weren't any good. when they announced vietnamization, then i was a rifle platoon commander and then a company commander. we worked with some of these veteran units and they were good. the view that i had were the people my age and younger that were coming were being trained and had learned different ways of doing military leadership, were strong. over time and we waited. someday korea will recall and nobody believed germany would unite as quickly as they did. you could have seen that same potential in vietnam. >> but vietnam was united.
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it's not the stalin place it was in the 1990s. it is a very different place today. you would agree with that? >> there is no way you can wind back the clock. i've started working with the vietnamese community here for many years, and the one thing i do is i take the same thing when i first started back to vietnam because the mantra from the communists when they see the american veteran is shake hands, let's make peace, move into the future. and i say, when you shake the hand of the arbon that you put in re-education camp for 13 years, great, let's move together in the future. >> are there physical remnants of the war as you travel back to the country? >> when i was first going back, in '91 and '92 --
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'92 we marched the entire length of the country. i was with a humanitarian commission -- >> for how long? i'm curious. >> about a month. went to hanoi, highway 1, the national road all the way to cambodia. the agreement was let's treat veterans from both sides. let us help treat the amputees in the south side of the army and we'll you recall at that time that point there was a lot of remnants or reminders. some of them were deliberate. the communists are very smart. they would leave a remnant of a base so whenever you would drive, american base, drive by it and see the weeds grow up and remember those people left us. but yeah, i mean, i went out to the battlefields.
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i think i was the first vietnam veteran to go out into the arizona valley that went to vietnam and brought stuff back. >> was that surreal? >> it was healthy, actually. to talk to the people that had been under fire from both sides, to go out and see the places that -- i spent a good deal of my life. and then the hanoi side, the communist side, built many, many cemeteries for their soldiers and victory monuments and those sorts of things. >> david maraniss, you were there in 2005 and 2006. our columnist debbie connelly traveled with you. s it available on our website at c-span.org. what did you see? >> we saw many remnants. we went to the site, the battlefield. the battlefield of the book near the creek of 44 miles northwest
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of saigon and met a farmer there who had been -- fought with the vietcong in that battle. we went with the north vietnamese division commander and with clark welch, who was the commanders who fought in that battle. when we met with the farmer who had been there for quite some who, we walked through his fields at the site of the battle and met one of his sons who the year before lost his arm when an american bomb exploded as he was working that field. so that is a remnant. and we went to hanoi and you visit the peace hospital and i don't think it is propaganda when you see descendants, young girls, 13, 14 years old with
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mutated limbs largely from the effects of some of the munitions. >> in that context, i've done it a dozen times. and without having a government handler come in and arrange the -- pre-brief the enemy on the other side. i walk out into the arizona valley and bump into people who would talk about what they did. and i'll tell you one thing. there is an enormous respect for the american marines who fought out there and from the other side. i bumped into a veteran of a big battle in may of 1969 who didn't know where i was coming or what -- why i was there. i was looking at an area where some of my marines had died. we just stumbled into a conversation. and those are healthy as long as everybody is allowed to participate. >> i would agree with that. the most profound experience i had during that visit was
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watching clark welch, tremendous leader of one of the companies, walk arm in arm with the commander of the vietcong first division as they went through the battlefield together. two men who didn't speak the same language tried to kill each other 40 years ago and respecting each other the whole time as they walked through the battlefield. >> 1968, a year in turmoil. and of course the driving issue was the vietnam war as we begin a nine-part series, part of c-span american history tv. follow us on twitter for c-span history. we'll go to clyde joining us from minnesota. another vietnam war veteran. go ahead, please. >> caller: thank you very much, gentlemen, for taking my call. i'll try to be brief and succinct but i want to make a very few points. i'm very proud of the fact that
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my father who was when i was born served in world war i. i could have refused orders but i didn't. i got orders to vietnam and i served in the rivers over there for one year. and i could have refused orders but i didn't. we hauled all of the napalm and ammunition up and down the rivers at night usually and the gun boats were our escorts. but i want to make this point. we need to be very, very careful who we elect at our leaders. the war was -- we pulled out finally in 1975, okay. nixon went to china. when? who supplied the vietnamese with armament besides russia? china. these are my minds. moral character, ethical character, very, very, very much matters and the truth, and i mean the truth -- we need to get back on track
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with these people we elect and the decisions they make that put so many feel and families in harm's way and thank you very much for taking my points. thank you so much. >> clyde, thank you. there are a couple things at play, his service and what he saw. and also the election of lyndon johnson in 1964 promising to let asian boys do that and not american soldier. mr. webb? >> first of all, i want to say how much i appreciate your call. i don't know if you're seeing or hearing the camera in front of me, because there were a couple important points made there. one of the things i learned during the vietnam period, not just during my service, was to respect anyone in this country who was operating within our legal system when it comes to whether you serve, whether you don't serve. there were a lot of people who felt very strongly on the other side about the war. as david mentioned, no question about that.
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and the other one is we need to respect a tradition of serving the country for those who do step forward. the vietnam war hasn't been characterized as a drafty's war. and i did a lot of work on this in the 1970s, who served and for how long? how was it compared to others. two-thirds of the marines that went into the war were voluntary. what was my political view in 1968? i was a marine. i wanted to lead people. that was going to be my life. my son during the iraq period, he and i were opposed by the strategy of going into iraq. i wrote a piece in the "washington post" five months before the invasion and said this is going to empower iran and china. we should not be involved.
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my son dropped out of penn state and enlisted in some of the worst fighting in iraq. and my father was serving. not career people like the mccain family who i greatly admire and respect, but when the time comes, we served. and that needs to be on the table. >> let me pick up on one point and we'll hear from senator mccain. and so to the caller's point, we did an interview with james jones and he said richard nixon undercut any efforts lake in 1968 by president johnson to bring an end to the war. >> there is an excellent new biography of richard nixon by my friend john farrell who found some notes at the nixon library of haldeman writing about the way they were trying to undercut the efforts of the peace talks
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right before that election through madam chenalut and others that were working with them at the time. i think it's pretty conclusive now that was going on. >> and to the caller's point? >> but can you make a larger point about the truth? because he mentioned the truth there. you can argue about policy, but one thing it's hard to argue about during the vietnam war is that the united states could -- was lying. they were lying. and so was the military. they were lying about body counts. why? because they wanted to make the argument they could win the war solely through battle of attrition. if they killed enough north vietnamese and vietcong, they would win the war. so in this very battle which was a devastating loss for the black lions battalion, westmoreland lie and so did the general, the first division commander.
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>> this may be too simplistic, but why did president johnson simply not pull the plug? why didn't he say we're going to leave vietnam and let the vietnamese deal with this issue. >> that has a long history to it and i would say it has to do with politics and the united states and the democratic party and the way the republican party had dominated the whole notion of patriotism and the cold war through that whole period. >> well, just sort of to round this out, in terms of body counts, there are two things that can be said about body counts. first of all, it was a war of attrition and ho chi minh used to say for every one of you we kill, you will kill ten of us and in the end you will get tired. >> that's right. >> but the body count by hanoi's admission came out pretty exact. when they admit 1.4 million soldiers dead, whether one battle or another was exaggerated, they were losing an awful lot of people.
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that just needs to be said. >> we'll go to frank joining us from palm bay, florida. a lot of vietnam vets on this sunday. go ahead frank. >> caller: hello. i have a question for jim webb. i was with the fifth marines at the same time he was. and i know exactly where the village was where he got wounded at. and i wanted him to know if he remembers the frustration that we used to feel by going to the same places day in and day out and taking the same wounded, and they knew exactly when we were coming and going. and it was just the same thing day in, day out. you got hit next to henderson hill. and we used to go there all the time. and it was in and out, in and out. and it was just we felt so much frustration because we weren't getting anywhere. >> frank, can you stay on the
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line? we'll get a response and if you want to follow up. senator webb. >> thank you. good to hear from somebody who was in the fifth marines. actually, yeah, the first time i was wounded it was off of henderson hill. second time was in the arizona valley. and one of the things that was frustrating, as a rifle platoon commander, was lack of continuity of our intelligence. i was sitting with a very good friend of mine years ago, reason i mentioned second time, who got his eye shot out in the arizona valley. and we were sitting in his backyard. i said where were you wounded? and he pulled out a map and he said right there. i said, are you kidding me? i was wounded like 800 meters away from where you were only two months later. and that's just the inevitability of when you have these operations that are continually over the same areas trying to make contact with the enemy.
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and to, you know, find, fix, and destroy, as the fifth marines used to say, that was our job, and we did it well. and it was extremely frustrating, i agree with you. and the fifth marines took a lot of casualties out there. >> frank, did you want to follow up? >> caller: no, thanks for taking my call. i appreciate it. i really enjoy jim's books and hopefully can make a bigger impact on vietnam vets. >> semper fi. >> you mentioned senator john mccain back in october sitting down with brian lamb in his office. he, of course, was a prisoner of war in vietnam for five and a half years. here is part of that interview. >> one of the great things about being a fighter pilot, you are sure everyone else is going to get shot down but not you. >> and when that happened, how many vietnamese were around you in the water in that lake?
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>> well, when i first went in, it's a long story, but i was barely able to get back to the surface. but then a bunch of them jumped in, and there is a picture i'm sure you'll show of them pulling me out of the lake. you can see my arm is broken, and up high. and then of course once they pulled me out, they weren't very happy to see me. >> why not? >> because i just finished bombing the place. and so we got pretty rough. broke my shoulder. and hurt my knee again. but, look, i don't blame them. i don't blame them. we are in a war. i didn't like it. but at the same time, when you are in a war and you are captured by the enemy, you can't
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expect, you know, to have tea. and so they pulled me out. long story short, pulled me out of the lake, beat me up a little, or a lot, and then went to the now famous hanoi hilton prison which was just a short drive away. five minute drive away. and then it's a very long story about how they found out who my father was and decided to give me treatment and two wonderful americans moved me into finally who thought they moved me in to die, and they took care of me and nursed me back to health. then after they saw me in better health, they put me into solitary confinement. >> that full interview by the way is available on website c-span.org and 45 years ago senator mccain releasing video, on his twitter page you can see his release from captivity.
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you can see him walking to freedom. senator webb? >> john mccain is a great friend. i've known him since 1978. i tease him because if you drive out to hanoi, you'll see a plaque that memorializes when john mccain went into the lake and i like to tease him that he's the only plern that has a memorial to him inside of vietnam. >> except for morrison the guy who tried to kill mcnamara also has a plaque there. >> that doesn't surprise me. >> yes. >> but john's getting shot down, i guess there are reasons that they might put a plaque there. but he gave great service and he has a lot of grace in him about what the implications of war are. >> explain that story. >> well, i don't know too much about it, but i saw the plaque of that, of an american who
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tried to kill mcnamara and considered a hero in parts of vietnam. >> let's get back to our phone calls. fred is joining us from austin, texas. where and when did you serve, fred? >> caller: i served 1970, 71, airborne combat around the areas of valley, and carried the m 61 machine gun into the bush and the jungle and the rice paddies. and one thing i'd like to point out is to the combat infantrymen who suffered through that, one thing that really irked me, and that was that the politicians were making the rules of engagement toward the end of our tour, we could barely defend ourselves. then we come back from a mission to the rear for a couple of days, we would see that the civilians that were working there in the mess hauls that
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were hired, they were vietnamese, and of course we carried vietnamese scouts. these were the captured prisoners that were converted into scouts to come along with us. and of course they weren't the most trustworthy. so we had our backs to the wall. and we had no way to protect ourselves as the rules of engagement changed for political reasons. and it's the same thing, if you weren't there, then you put down on paper these rules. and put the combat infantrymen in dire situations were risking their lives. so that was the one thing that irked me. but i served and i'm glad i served. and i was proud to be served, but airborne all the way, all the way, 82nd airborne. >> thank you. senator webb, did you sense that? >> first of all, i want to say thank you. i was in the first marine division, and the mountains separated us from the other side
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of the mountain. we used to see the flares every night over there. i appreciate what you did. it's a very bad area in terms of combat in vietnam. they had big fights out there. let me put a shout out there. there weren't that many people from the professional sports world who went to vietnam. one was roger staubach, heisman trophy winner who volunteered to spend a year. another was rocky blier from notre dame. >> wisconsin. >> great blocking back for the pittsburgh steelers. and he accepted the draft or he might have volunteered. but he was wounded, series of fights in june of '69, he was wounded at the same time when all of that stuff was going on with us and i've always had
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tremendous respect for him. the rules of engagement were strict. they became strict. many times it was very frustrating. but on the other hand, we are a nation of rules. and i want to emphasize this again. because one of the great failing and on our side and actually bernard fall had pointed this out in 1961, before we went in, in his book, the two vietnams, is we used artillery and supporting arms tactically. we would set a perimeter up and have on calls on night because enemy would ingress and attack you. but it was kind of random in the village when they would see the stuff come out of the sky and civilians were often hurt. the communists used assassination as the tools of the policy, the worst thing i saw in the basin where i fought. people would say, the south vietnamese district chiefs are all corrupt. they stayed in a villa in danang.
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so our company commander said said let's have a meeting with our villagers. we went out and got 30 people in a small room. they came in with three hit men, threw three grenades, killed 19 out of the 30 people for having connected with the south vietnamese government. they need to own up. i say this to my friends in the government in vietnam. you need to own up that a lot of the stuff went on as a matter of policy. >> i just want to remind our audience that we are focusing on america, 1968, america in turmoil. it's the first of a nine-part series on american history tv, all of it available on our website at c-span.org. our guests here, jim webb, navy secretary, naval academy graduate, marine corps veteran,
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we want to get that correct. but part of the broader navy. and david maraniss who is author of countless books. he is the editor at the "washington post," including "they marched in sunlight." you wanted to follow up. >> yes, since we are talking about 1968, it was march 16th, 1968 when meli happened. it wasn't revealed for another year, but when you talk about rules of engagement, that's the worst that can happen when you don't follow rules of engagement. hundreds of old people, kids, just civilians were literally slaughtered by american troops. if it wasn't for another heroic american helicopter pilot who landed between them and stopped it, it could have gone on for longer. of course war is awful in all respects, but there has to be certain ethical and moral rules of engagement standard or that can happen. >> first of all, the objective of meli was what?
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>> the objective was to destroy the village, basically. >> and how many people died? how many civilians? >> several hundred. at least 500. >> i go back to the earlier point of the caller and what happened on the home front. there was more congressional oversight in 1968. we had the fulbright hearings in washington. how significant were they? >> every step of that was very significant. although you have to understand that in 1968, the war lasted for another seven years. but in terms of the turning point, in terms of congressional approval over the next two or three years, it changed the world considerably. >> can i just -- to finish this thought. i don't know the exact number of people who were killed at meli. whatever it was, it was atrocious. and we recognize that. this is the most important point i hope i can make today.
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we recognize that in our legal system, in our system of morality, we declare this as an aberration. we still condemn it. it took three weeks before meli communist cadre lined up about 2,000 vietnamese and killed them because they were connected to the south vietnamese government. it was a part of their policy. we can't seem to get that into the history. i can accept -- you can see -- >> we're responsible for ourselves, basically. >> when we're allowing one side to sort of cleanse their history and giving film footage that basically was propaganda footage mixed into our documentaries, when we don't point this out it just seems like we were the evil source and that's all that was going on there. i accept that there is a different system in vietnam that i would have liked to have seen. i worked very hard with it. i brought american companies
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into vietnam in the 1990s after the trade embargo was lifted, but we need to have an honest discussion about our history. >> next from bedford, new hampshire. go ahead, please. >> caller: thank you very much for taking my call. first, senator webb, thank you for your service both in the service and afterwards in congress and government. i was at west point from '68 to '72, and a classmate of mine, andy crippenivoch, wrote a book about vietnam in retrospect. he had a couple thesis. one was in large part the general staff wanted to run the war on the same model that the europeans was running world war ii. and that there were some pilot projects where what he called
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the inkblot approach of securing an area, providing 24-hour protection through the indigenous forces as well as our military, and then gradually expanding those so people could see the benefits of peace and also of a change of government. but those projects, even though they had successes, they were abandoned because of higher level priorities. also, senator webb, i do believe that if you had run as a republican, i would be addressing you as president webb. and lastly, i felt during vietnam that people protested too much. in retrospect, i have different feelings about that, and i now feel that because people don't have skin in the game, don't have family at risk, that people
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don't protest enough, and that if we still had the draft and if people still -- if military service was more widespread, we would have different policies today in terms of iraq, afghanistan and elsewhere. thank you very much. >> thank you from new hampshire. >> those are excellent points. the one thing that i went through when my son was in iraq. it's one thing to go and fight in a war, it's another thing to have your kid or your spouse over there. it's a totally different feeling, and i used to say that if one-third of the congress had, you know, family members or people who were close to at risk, they would wake up every morning and wonder if your son is alive. you have a totally different feeling how the use of force is made in the country. there is absolutely nothing that
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this gentleman just said that i would disagree with other than that i am not sure i would have won as a republican. >> i have a couple of points there. >> certainly. >> i think the draft fueled the fire of the anti-war movement because it lends the self-interest aspect to the idealism. every young man of my age was debating what they would do if they were drafted if they opposed the war. so were their girlfriends and their parents, so it created that atmosphere that led to it. the second point is, i agree completely that you can't protest enough. dissent is a vital lifeblood of american democracy. >> you wrote about that in "first in his class" about bill clinton. the draft movement in this country. i will put on the table, this is a photograph, an associated press photo from eddie adams called in "the washington post" "a turning point in the war." it is an iconic photograph from 1968, february of that year.
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a south vietnamese brigadier general shooting a vietcong enlisted soldier. david maraniss. >> that was during the tet offensive that that happened. capturing the moment of death like that has a power beyond the reality of what was happening in terms of those two people. and i think that, just like the nightly broadcasts in vietnam which were showing much more than you ever saw in iraq in terms of what was -- of the brutality of war, affects people in a more visceral way. >> senator webb, would you agree with "the washington post," a grisly photo of a saigon execution 50 years ago shocked the world and helped end the war. agree or disagree? >> i would say first of all the facts of that -- i knew eddie adams. he passed away. he was a friend of mine. he did the photography in a number of journalistic stories i did for "parade" magazine.
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he also was a marine in korea. the facts of the story is the individual who was shot had just killed family members of people and exactly what we are talking about in terms of just killing people. i am not sure that was a general. i know he was a police chief. maybe he was a general. but eddie adams said to me, and i have written about this, that when he -- he received an award for that photograph i think by the dutch. a dutch press organization. and when they read this sort of comment about his picture, he cried because that was -- that was not the intention of making a photograph like that. he was a professional photographer. >> and the cut line describes him as the south vietnamese brigadier general and chief of national police. >> right. >> he would have had both titles. >> brigadier general and national police. >> back to your phone calls. from athens, ohio, chester. go ahead, please. >> caller: hello, there. yes.
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in reference to that photo, that police chief, what he had done, he had killed several people in the village. so basically he was a terrorist is what he was. he deserved to be shot. my point is -- >> chester, stay on the line for a moment. you knew eddie adams. obviously -- did he have any sense that this was about to happen? do you know the story behind this picture? >> eddie adams was a great photographer. i think he saw an event and just started snapping and the photograph came out. the gentleman makes an excellent point because that's exactly one of the points i have been trying to make during this -- >> chester, thanks. i didn't mean to cut you off. go ahead, please. >> caller: okay. my point is you're talking about the protest. i think we should be allowed to protest but you have to be careful with these protests because a lot of protesting going on back then, that foreign policy that controlled what we did over there -- by protesting all this, we couldn't expand the war or anything. it handcuffed our troops. we couldn't go to cambodia or laos and chase the people.
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they stayed right over there and used it as a buffer, and it handcuffed us. you need to be careful when you talk about protesting. i don't think i'll ever forget those people, what they did. thank you. >> i don't think the protests handcuffed the policy. i think the policy handcuffed the policy. >> let's go to bonnie from bellevue, washington. go ahead, please. >> caller: hello? >> go ahead, bonnie. you're next. >> caller: okay. i am a wife of a vietnam veteran. of course the war affected us at home as equally as those in -- in a different way than those serving over abroad. the question, the point i wanted to make was that in 1968, not only were the protests going on, we haven't gotten to april, may, june of that year when we had -- my husband and i were 1964 graduates of high school. 1968 graduates of college.
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i can -- i don't believe that most people were volunteers. i think my husband was a volunteer only because he was going to be drafted in three months, so he walked in and volunteered because he wanted to choose the time to go. he felt he had no choice. most of our class -- we had many who passed away, who were killed, ptsd, extreme cases of that from the class of '64. and the class of '68. '68, when my husband was in training, we had martin luther king killed, bobby kennedy killed. we had riots.
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it was a very tumultuous, unsettling, unhappy time. >> bonnie, thank you. i want to jump in and also remind you that we are focusing next week on those political events. thank you for adding that to the conversation. jim webb, did you want to respond? >> yes. first of all, i want to thank you and your husband and your friends for what they did during that period and for him having stepped forward and served. it was -- it was difficult for a lot of people making those decisions. there is no doubt about that. i remember -- i know you are going to talk about it in your next segment, but just in the months leading up before i graduated from the naval academy in 1968, martin luther king was killed i believe on april 7th. >> 4th. >> was it the 4th? robert kennedy was killed the night before we graduated on june the 5th. he was killed at 2:00 in the morning.
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it was a tremendous amount of turmoil in the country. you made a point which i think ought to be put on the table, and that is, as a family member. there was one point when i was young, my dad was gone for three and a half years. he was able to come back for visits, but he was stationed overseas. my mom was 24 years old with four kids and living in a town where there was no support. now we've got great support structures for our military people. but the price that families pay and the sacrifices that they make, we don't often put into the formula, so thank you very much. >> you have both studied the conflict of this war probably more than anyone else. going back to 1968, was there a path to victory for the u.s.? >> i think we'll disagree about this. i think not. i think that no matter what we had done, in the end it wasn't
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going to be enough. i think fighting on someone else's turf like that is impossible to ask, and that there was -- it depends on how you define victory. if you define it as a stalemate by korea, then perhaps that could have lasted, but i don't think the american public had the patience for it. >> i think that with the growth of the south vietnamese military leaders, it depends on what your objective would have been by 1968 as opposed to 1963, let's say, when it was a totally different set of circumstances. i do believe if we had lived up to our obligations, we would have been able to have had a stalemate. we don't think the way the chinese thinks, in hundreds of
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years, we think in terms of months and election cycles. but i think we discredit what the younger south vietnamese leaders have brought to the table, and we shouldn't forget the way this war ended in 1975 when we really pulled the plug on them and left them hanging. i got a lot of friends who were out there who ended up in education camps when they were down to about two artillery rounds, two per day. i used to fire 600 per day when i was a commander. >> and having a brother who served two tours in vietnam, has it left a scar on this revolution? >> absolutely. it left a scar on the country for all these decades, yes. >> and what about nevietnam? >> less so. vietnam is the youngest country in the world, so the vast majority of the people there consider the american war of aggression, as they call it, a speed bump in their history. >> it's because when the communists took over, you know,
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there was only one thing that's really taught, and you have the veietnamese americans over here 2 million american vietnamese -- or americans of vietnamese descent. that is a scar that has to be healed, and i've worked very hard on it over the years. if you're a south vietnamese army veteran in vietnam, you are not a veteran. you have no veteran status. >> explain that. >> you have no veteran status. ironically, it's a little bit like the confederate army after the civil war. that's how states' rights got so big and my family is from that part of the kuchbcountry. you're not recognized as a veteran. they were getting no medical care, those sorts of things. the cemetaries for the arvin, the south vietnamese, were allowed to fall apart.
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there is a big cemetary in ben wa, outside of saigon, where they put the word "traitor" over the heads of south vietnamese that were killed. it took a long time, but we did it. there is a confederate memorial in the arlington national cemetary that was put in there in 1912, and when i have friends from the vietnamese hanoi government visit me, i like to take them there. this is how we make peace, we bring people together. >> that is still breaking up again, the confederate issue. >> yeah. we could do a whole show on that. >> that's another topic for american history tv. we're talking with james webb and david mara mrkmaraniss as w back on the vietnam war. john from los angeles, a vietnam
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war veteran, thank you for waiting. go ahead. >> caller: yes, good morning, gentlemen. i find the conversation a little scary. i like to focus my remarks to the senator who i do believe falls in the category of those who experience things but forgets lessons they're supposed to learn from them. vietnam was a terrible war. we should have never been there. i don't know about the senator's recollection, but most of the people in the field were people that were drafted into the service, and most of those people came back with wounds that haven't been healed and probably can never be healed. my personal experience was i went over to vietnam volunteering, okay? after my experience volunteering, i realized that i was doing the wrong thing. and most of the people around me was realizing the same thing. so i came back and i wasn't expecting a thank you for your service, and i hope, senator, you don't say that to me.
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i came over here realizing i had made a mistake, and i was wondering what i could do about it. so i started on a quest, basically, of trying to figure out what the truth is, what's really going on. i was a seeker, i guess. i found out now that most people in this country never sought nothing. they forgot something. the wound you were just talking about has definitely healed, and sometimes people's wounds that heal, they forget the pain. but the pain we've had from those wounds have been opened by the way we're conducting ourselves in this world today. and to me, sir, we are supporting the hawkish attitudes that this program sort of infers is most dissettling, and i hope most americans aren't buying into it. >> let me just give you some thoughts on that. first of all, in america everyone is entitled to their own opinion and having their own reactions to things that they went through.
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i spent most of my life looking at this issue, the issue of service, and what this war was all about. i've spent time in vietnam looking at it. i worked on the veterans committee. i represented an individual who was wrongly convicted of homicide inside vietnam for six years pro bono. and i think there is room for a lot of different opinions, but if you look at -- i'm sorry to say this to you, but i'm going to say it again. if you look at the polling data of the people who served in vietnam, 91% are glad they served their country, 9% are not. 74% said they enjoyed their time in the military to some extent, and two out of three said they would do it again. so there are people who don't agree with that. however, you look at the views that i've been talking about today with respect to vietnam, i think you should take some time and look at the views that i've had on other different foreign
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policy situations in this country. i was the first, i think, major figure to say that the invasion of iraq was going to be a strategic blunder five months before the war in my editorial for the "washington post." although my family does have a tradition of service and my son has fallen in iraq. we're a big country. we're 300 million people. we have a lot of different viewpoints. as david said, i think descent and debate is a very healthy thing, so i appreciate what you said. >> i'm going to go back to the nelon massacre. this is joseph strick interviewing some of those veterans involved in that operation that led to so many deaths. here's an excerpt. >> we spoke to five of the american soldiers who were at meli in 1968.
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they were james berthold of niagara falls, new york. jerry of stockton, california, gary of texas, girarado simpson of jackson, mississippi and from florida. >> they said shoot everything, man, woman, children, everything. every living thing, that was sort of like the order. >> this is something a soldier has to do, take orders and carry them out. >> i had to run around yelling kill, kill, kill, just to get that feeling that you can do it. >> that morning about 7:00, we boarded the choppers and we went into the village. when we got off the chopper, we started shooting. >> there were infants, in fact. it makes you think even if they were considered beasts that you
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would think of maybe a water buffalo calf or a little piglet would fare better than a child. >> we figured that the babies when they grew up would be a failure, anyway, so why grow up? >> what did you think of the guys when they did this? >> they were having a good time. >> did you see anybody who was not? >> no, just about everybody was busy. >> what do you consider a war crime? >> i consider a war crime being over there. just the idea of being there. >> again, david mara nirkssiss, brought this up earlier. women, children, infants. >> the man who was responsible for this massacre was brought to justice through that, but people tend to forget that hugh thompson, the american soldier who intervened, received hate mail from all over the country,
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and cali got a lot of support. it was a very divisive argument even after this happened. but the last point of the young man saying the war crime was being there is an interesting one. >> james webb, shoot anything that moves. you talk about saluting and following orders, but at what point do you say, we can't do this? >> that can't happen, and we think immorally on things that happened on the other side. in those kinds of situations, something should be said, and that is the leaders should be held accountable. i represented this african-american at 18 years old, 11 days in vietnam, and the squad leader said "shoot" and he shot, and the person who gave the order had civilian counsel from the states and got off. my guy had military counsel and
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he got convicted of murder. i represented him for six years. he killed himself halfway through it, and three years later i cleared his name. but the whole question was he was 18 years old. he's a category 3-b enlistee. a man says "shoot," he had never been told you're not supposed to obey an order. that's the one thing -- about the only thing i would say about that. that's uncalled for. >> in my opinion that goes all the way up to the top. it goes up to the president of the united states. >> terry, you -- actually, we'll go to john joining us from chicago. you get the last word. go ahead, john. >> caller: great conversation, guys. wish we had three more hours. grew up with a fellow that got the medal of honor, tom b. harvey. i want to say the names aloud so america hears them. i went through boot camp with a guy named emilio garza who got
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the medal of honor. my wife's first cousin was on the hilltop with a fellow named kenny kaye from southern illinois. i was smart enough to talk three of my grammar school buddies into joining the marine corps. we come back with all our fingers and all our toes. we all got survivors' blessings. while you guys talk about gratitude, it's been wonderful to see both ends of the seesaw with both you guys talking. dave, i go to pts meetings with a fellow that served in the unit you write about in your book. what a wonderful conversation. talk about grace and gratitude, you guys. and jim, we need you back in politics. semper fi, guys. >> semper fi. >> one of the soldiers in this battle got a medal of honor,
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too, but i like to think of all 61 men who were killed in this battle and the reminder that wars don't end when the battles end. >> senator jim webb. >> i think this is a great conversation. this is what america is all about. >> and the legacy and the lessons today, what are they? >> of the vietnam war? when i think of the vietnam war, first of all, i can't help but think about the omission in our conversation is the south vietnamese who were with us and how they were treated after the war. and the greatest mission, i think, for really healing the process is for -- to reach across and have the vietnamese be together. >> that will eventually happen, i think. >> on the other side, martin luther king, on april 4, 1967, one year before he was assassinated at riverside church in new york said, if america's
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soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy will be vietnam. >> david maraniss, associate editor and the author of nearly a dozen books including "they marched into sunlight," and marine veteran, former navy secretary and former u.s. senator james webb, who is author of ten books, including his memoir "i heard my country calling." thank you both, gentlemen, for being with us. >> thank you. >> thank you. next, from our series, 1968 america in turmoil. it had a cast of characters including lbj, eugene mccarthy, robert f. kennedy, ronald reagan, george romney, nelson rockefeller and third party candidate george wallace. our guests are pat buchanan who worked on richard nixon's presidential campaign in 1968. and barbara perry, presidential studies director at the university of virginia's miller center. first, a look at

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