Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War
SESSION 4 (TRANSCRIPT)

The Best and the Brightest

B.G. Burkett: Hi. Steve wants me to get started here and I must catch a plane right after this. My name is B.G. Burkett. I am a co-author of this book, Stolen Valor. In the first part of my talk, I am going to kind of describe my personal situation and what got me into the book business and co-authorship and everything else.

I grew up in the military. Like Scott, my father was an Air Force officer, pretty much raised in the Strategic Air Command, and of course my whole youth, every housing development we lived in, every neighbor on the street was a World War II vet. P-51s, B-25s, B-24s, B-17s and of course we migrated into the C-47s, the B-58s, B-52s. I was a senior at Vanderbilt when I decided, I did not exactly want to go into the Air Force, I knew I had an ear problem. I knew I would not be able to be a pilot, so I decided to go in the Army which actually my father had done it in World War II and ended being in aerial ordnance and went over to the Air Force when they switched over in the 1940s. It never dawned to me not to go in the military. In peace time, war time, I was going to go in the military just even because it was the thing do and one of the things of lost in the love at press about Vietnam veterans, the thing that we probably had most common with each other regardless of what class strata we came from, we were the sons of World War II vets. There was that concept of honor, duty, country; there was that JFK – “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” So, anyway I went as an enlisted man to go to OCS. Fort Jackson basic training, went to Fort McClellan which was the first class that went through there since World War II which was not pleasant because the one group was firing, the rest of us were next range over with machetes clearing off the range. We repaired it for everybody who followed us. Went to Ordnance OCS which actually stayed in the same barracks, World War II barrack, and my father stayed in Aberdeen Proving Ground, got assigned to the First Armored Division, got sent to Chicago riots for the Martin Luther King and decided getting killed in Chicago was not that glorious and volunteered to be for Vietnam and I found out that I was frozen because I was in a computer project in which there was no MOS associated with it, so I was not replaceable, I mean I would work six months or more on this project and I kept begging and pleading and I put in for every assignment I could get and I kept getting turned down and finally they released me to go to Vietnam, I was assigned the 199tt Light Infantry [Brigade]. I basically did what every Vietnam veteran did, did my job, because I had been an 11 Bravo for those of you in the infantry, I was a rifleman, as an enlisted man. I got command of a rifle platoon, only for perimeter defense. I never had to go out in the field. We were attacked several times in the base camp but I basically had an adventure in Vietnam. I was probably the only Lieutenant in the United States Army who had two jeep drivers and two jeeps and it was because I had to go on to Saigon everyday and had extra vehicles and I did not want to give them up, so they assigned both these drivers to me. I had a Monday, Wednesday and Friday driver and a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday driver. I got to fly all over the country. Got out, came back, got out of the military. Literally the day I got back from Vietnam, I had already applied to go to graduate school, took the Graduate Record Exam in Vietnam which was an experience. Had to try to apply to graduate school from there which was a nightmare. In any event, I graduated from the Vanderbilt undergraduate School, went to University of Tennessee and got my MBA and was ready to go out into the business world. I had been harassed on the plane going home by a passenger. That was my first encounter with “being a Vietnam veteran in 1970 in America in uniform” and it kind of shocked me because again I had listened to the experiences of the World War II fellows about the parades and the slaps on the back and free drinks in the bar and everything and it was obvious which everyone of you is a Vietnam veteran learned very quickly that it was not going to happen to us. Got through the graduate school. The Business School was the only school that did not shut down during the Cambodian invasion because we had 1100 Vietnam veterans in the Business Schooland we demanded that the professor show up, we paid our tuition and everybody else was out demonstrating while we went to class. I got an interview, one of the first interviews I got was a major Atlanta bank and they had done a preliminary, they had sent somebody to campus and they had kind of gone through the preliminaries with some us and then picked those of us they wanted to interview in Atlanta. When we got to Atlanta, we went in through a preliminary interview and the individual, I was about 5th in the line, I go in, he looks at my resume, looks at me, and says you are Vietnam veteran. I had put my service in my resume, the fact that I had been an officer. I said yes sir. He picks up the resume, tears it up and throws it in the thrash can and says we are not hiring any god damn Vietnam veterans, you get the hell out of my office, I am going to go and get a cup of coffee and if you are not gone when I get back, I am calling security. They had just paid for me to go to Atlanta, I just had a bizarre episode and I realized that I had a choice to put that on my resume or not putting that on my resume which those of us my fellow classmates, Vietnam veteran we all had that. I refused to take it off because I did not really want to work for anybody that did not value that military service and fortunately I got a job with a family firm out of Houston, I’m a stockbroker, both of whom were from World War II.

I had gone on for many years when a friend of mine from Vanderbilt who had two tours, calls up and says, hey there is a committee forming trying to build a Texas Vietnam Memorial. They had a couple of failed attempts and lets go to this meeting. When we go to this meeting and there are a lot of well meaning people, but you could tell they did not have a clue how to organize and where to get the money or anything else and I was in the financial world, my friend was a chief executive office of a company, so we get in there and there was another fellow named, Mark Ruff and basically the three of us took over this committee. I became the co-chairman. My immediate friend became the president and we had a division of labor. The friend, chief executive officer, was an engineer. He ran all the construction outfits trying to get the labor units to donate time, trying to get construction companies to donate material. The other fellow was very well placed and made a fortune in the construction business. He was the rainmaker. My job was the day-to-day fund raising and I thought that was going to be easy. I had been a broker for almost two decades in Dallas, I knew where the money was and I thought that I was going to go tell them what I was doing and they were going to say who do we send the check to and how much do you want it to be. We had a lot of defense contractors. Bell Helicopters was there and virtually every major manufacturer in the military hardware business has got some subsidiary in Dallas. What happened though and our state lost 3427 Texans, we were number 3 behind California and New York. They came from 600 municipalities, virtually every county in the state, across every cross section, every university, places like Texas A&M and University of Texas had lost hundreds and again I was na´ve. I thought this was going to be easy. We had the construction ability with these other fellows who were involved and I thought we are going to spend may be 4-6 months raising the money and we would spend another 3 months building it. We would slap ourselves on the back and go home. We got then Vice President George Bush to be our honorary chairman. We got Roger Staubach to do commercials. We got dozens of TV stations to do public announcements but I would start making the calls and the response was from every donor I ran into; some were polite, some were nasty; why should we give money to those bums, meaning Vietnam veterans, and every time they did that it just kind of shocked me and I got into this argument kind of thing but I did not really, other than my personal experiences, I could not relate how many of us went to college, how many are in prison, how many are whatever negative response they had, I did not have a figure, I did not have a backup. So I am in a pragmatic business. I sell investments. I am not like, trust me. I have the facts and figures and I have the last year’s earnings and you got a report and you got some foundation to build your argument on. So the first thing I did is I went to the Labor Department, a major in economics and I realized and found out the woman named Sharon Cohaney was the major economist who does the male unemployment report as a single report 50 pages or so every year on the status of male employment in America. It is broken down by age, economic strata and race and all these various and sundry things and I called her up and said what you have on Vietnam veterans and she paused for a minute and she said specifically we have never done anything on that but I have got all the veteran groups, it would not be that hard for me to actually put a section in there on veterans. She could not give me any figures right there.

Four months later she published that report; unemployment in the economy was 6% among all men; among all veterans of all ages “this was back in the late 1980s” all veterans it was 5.5%. Among the men who had served during Vietnam that had not gone to Vietnam, it was 4.3% and among the men who had served in Vietnam, “Vietnam Veterans,” it was 3.9%. Vietnam Veterans had the lowest unemployment rate of any major group in America but it got better. She also had all kinds of other statistics related to these various veterans group. The Vietnam veterans had the highest per capita income. One of the reasons is, they had the highest educational level. Armed with that knowledge I went to the VA and discovered the 71% of returning Vietnam veterans had used the GI bill for some element of education. I mean some of it was technical school, some of it undergraduate, most of our friends who were college graduates that I know in Dallas we too went back to law school, went back and got Masters or MBA’s. Well, right here if the people are employed, they are not killing themselves and not robbing banks and are not sitting in prisons, so I kept extending the range and the only reason I was doing this was to have this banker’s statistics when I would go to these donors and they would make some comment, well what about the 600,000 Vietnam veterans in prison. Well, again there had never been an exact study of veterans in prison at that time, but I did find several studies in which as many as 20 or 30,000 records were pulled from the archives on Vietnam veterans. They were 100% Vietnam veterans and they located the veterans for surveys, either they were going to phone or mail questionnaires to. Typically they would find 97-98% just off the information was in the military file: next of kin, home address, VA benefits or areas where they can locate veterans. They then took the remainder and ran it against the national data bank on prisoners, both federal and state prisons. An infinitesimal number of Vietnam veterans were discovered in prisons and by doing that they located virtually 100% of these individuals. They wanted prisons. The people in prison were claiming to be Vietnam veterans, it was all verbal presentation brought them in there and you stop and think about it, you go to prison, you are stripped of everything and the main thing you got going for you or against you is your race. You are either Mexican, American, you are white or you are black and boy, you better hope your group is already in that prison because you are going to be in trouble. By claiming you are a Vietnam veteran suddenly you are the bad ass of the place but you’re ecumenical in the sense that you have got buddies in all categories because all of them are claiming to be Vietnam veterans. That came in into play here about three years ago, there was a national study funded by the federal government, spent over three million dollars, went to 27 different penal facilities and interviewed the warden to start with and then interviewed the veterans in those institution and they came up with all of these Vietnam veterans. The Vietnam veterans were majority of the incarcerated veterans and the Vietnam veterans that were there were the most violent of the group. Now I got this study and I read it and I knew -- I had a question to ask the researcher -- but I already knew the answer. I called him up and said, when did you get their military records, did you get it before or after you interviewed them? The answer was, why would we bother to get their military records, they wouldn’t lie. They have no reason to lie. Waste of your tax payer dollars. Bingo.

Now, again I am arming myself to try to raise this money and about that time, I was working with the archives because I was trying to locate casualties by municipalities. I was trying to locate next of kin. I might go to a particular county who had lost 14 individuals in that particular county. I would go to city council, show them who had been lost, I might even have contacted the high school and find out what class they were in and then I would make a presentation, why does not this city get behind this effort to honor these men, raise 1000 dollars in this county for each one of them and I would go county by county, city by city. I would go to VFW post in these locations.

But about that time, in Downtown Dallas and I worked in Downtown Dallas at that time, there was a police officer who stopped the motorist making an illegal turn and they both were standing below the curve, in front of the car and up came this individual that all of us were familiar with, he was a African-American homeless man who was obviously mentally ill, he just mumbled to himself, he would just be talking, he shuffled along, he walked straight up this police officer without any hesitation, pushes officer, the officer falls back over the curve, his weapon is dislodged from his holster, the vagrant grabs the gun, points it at his face and bunch of stupid kids at a bus stop start chanting “kill him, kill him.” He shoots the police officer in the face and kills him. Headlines “Vietnam veteran goes berserk.” I see this headline and my spirits just dropped because I knew I was going to hear about one of my people going nuts, you know there is another one of those Vietnam veterans and I was lamenting to this guy at the archives about this and he said why don’t you get the vagrant’s military record. I didn’t know you could. I just assumed it was covered by the Privacy Act. I quickly realized that the fact that he died in Dallas County, there was going to be a death certificate with the County Clerk, I get the death certificate, got his social security number, get his military record. He had served in the Navy during the military war, had not made it through basic training when he was kept there on a psychological discharge. The guy was crazy, you know, before he went him the military, he never served in Vietnam. I took that record and the information to the Press that bally-hooed his Vietnam veteran status and said look, I need you to undo or retraction, and just do a story about our efforts to reverse this image. They not only refused to retract the story, they refused to admit they were wrong. They had unequivocal proof they told me that he was a Vietnam veteran, even I had his personal file, I later discovered their proof was a County welfare form where it had “are you a veteran, yes or no,” and then it had peacetime period and World War II era, Vietnam era and he had checked Vietnam era and that was good enough for them. But then two or three weeks after that episode, there was a first big postal killings at Edmund Oklahoma. A disgruntled employee got fired, comes back with a gun, kills 14 employees in that postal facility and then shoots himself. This time it is national news. Vietnam veteran goes berserk. I get the record. The guy had been a Marine and never left the States. He was not a Vietnam veteran. Not one national media source, not one newspaper retracted the story that I contacted. From that point on, I started realizing that there is something going on here. Surely, it was totally contradictory, everything that I knew about my peers that served in Vietnam and I had not a fund raising problem -- I had a public relations problem. So I revamped my thinking and what I was going to do. I started ratcheting up the research. I tried to get everything I could get from anybody anywhere. I started checking every single story that came out in the press about Vietnam veterans. You know, there was another one right after that committed suicide. I get his record and ask the police officer that investigated, how do you know he is a Vietnam veteran. He says the reporter told me. I called the reporter, how do you known he is a Vietnam veteran, the wife told him. I get the military record. The guy never left the States. He was not a Vietnam veteran. I mean he told her that all his heroics and how screwed up he was and he was an alcoholic because Vietnam made him that way. This thing just continues and I got into what I term almost bizarre little glitches of history. I was researching this 3200 individuals just in terms of who they were. I was the first person to get the data bank from the Pentagon. I made a Freedom of Information request for the computer data that they had on all 58,000 casualties and their first response is, you cannot have that, and I am going on, why not. What is the protect here, they finally realized that I was right under the Freedom of Information act, all I did was redact some personal information regarding home address. I had their social security numbers, I had service numbers, I had their religion, race, all that, I got Texas Instruments that let me check and I got the big IBM-360, is the way I got it and I had a Vietnam veteran who was on my board who worked in the computer room of Texas Instruments. They agreed to let us work that tape on the off hours on the computer and I broke that thing down everyway I could break it. I broke it down by county. I broke it down by religion. I broke it down by race. And there was just a lot of things that started coming out of that effort. One of things we decided on our memorial that we were going to list them alphabetically by last name, then first, middle name, we were going to put Branch of Service, birth date and death date, so we would need manuals like they have at the National. We didn’t do them chronologically. So you go out there and you could find your brother or sister just by the name. We had the same outfit that do the national memorial, did the engraving in Memphis, did our memorial also and we were still having a drastic problem with fund raising. So when we got enough money, we had these four big tablets engraved on each side of Texas red granite, these things were about 10 feet high, about a foot thick and about I think, it is 8 or 10 feet long, we went ahead and bought the tablets, put them on the display in the fair ground, the Texas State Fair which, it is where the Cotton Bowl is with a purpose that if we can’t raise all this money, these tablets are going to get dumped on the City and we are going to have to build a memorial and do some with it because they are not going to discard these tablets. One of the things that happened while I was doing that, is that I had an individual in the main data bank that did not have a birthdate and of course I had a left a blank on my wall, so I started researching this fellow and lo and behold the archives, oh my god, we got a problem here, this man died in 1969. I said I know that, no…..but we have got a bunch of cancelled checks he signed in 1971, 72, and 74, VA disability checks and they thought they had an assumed identity and I get all the data I can. I go to the police officers that I knew a buch of them Vietnam veterans and I went to the press these guy reporters that had been working with, told them about this situation and I would say, we got a guy that may be a fraud but he is operating under this name and it took me about two hours to get a call back from reporter, he has checked the license bureau somehow, he knew somebody in there, lo and behold, I got an address on this guy. I go up the first weekend, there is nobody home, I look into mail box sure enough there is mail to that name, I am back the next week and this guy, we had determined from the record, had his arm blown off in an ambush, put a grenade in his armpit to try to stop the bleeding and continued to operate the machine gun basically saving his column from annihilation and there was indication that he had died in this action. I am talking to the woman of the house and I can see right there I am looking into part of the living room den, there is a framed shadow box of medals including the Silver Star, lo and behold, this guy comes out from the partition saying that he is the individual whose name I am looking for and he is missing an arm. This guy is on the National Wall, as killed in action. He is not dead. At that time, he was a police dispatcher. He then became a police officer in a small community suburb of Dallas. He is now the police chief of that community with one arm. Great story and I got some of the local press to do that story. I also though realized that this absence of birth date occurred in not only in Texas but when I ran the entire 58,000, bottom line is I discovered 25 individuals whose names are on the wall as killed in action and they are not dead, there are a lot. I also ran again another light went on, I ran the computer for duplicate social security number, lo and behold, I got seven or eight hits on that, and what happened there is would be John P Smith and there might be another one, Jonathan P Smith, same individual. They got duplicate records and put both names on the wall so basically, I discovered 32 individuals who were not dead or existed.

We finally raised the money, I mean it was like pulling teeth and probably the worse period of my life that I was getting, I don’t say embittered, but I was getting very disappointed in the Texas community, the national community because there continued to be a barrage of negative Vietnam stories which we have some recounted here today and we finally raised the money in 1989. We had the dedication on Veterans Day and by this time, George Bush was President. We had thought that when he became President, he would not continue to do this and would not have the time and he said absolutely not, I am sticking with you all the way, I went to the White House and invited him to come down here, he comes down, the Governor comes and we have this ceremony that is covered by 65 separate media services, from around the world. The interesting thing though is when I was building the memorial, one of these local veterans would get involved and I mean they were like flies in your face, they always had some kind of agenda whether than raising the money to honor the dead, I had kind of weird episodes. Once we got those tablets, there would be big events on the weekends in the Fairground and I would set up a kind of a display or the mock memorial and these guys would be there collecting donations and after work, I would go by and pick up the donations and cash. There would be a certain group there, in which there would be nothing but change and 1 dollar bills. The next three days, there would be different guys there and there were 5s and 10s and 20s, I certainly realized, the first group is stealing the money. Also it dawned on me that these guys doing normal business hours aren’t working. Actually every one of them was in the VA on disability, mostly post traumatic stress. I started checking military records. The President of the VVA was an individual that when I checked, he had deserted the army in Louisiana from Fort Polk. He had picked up a teenager in California, stole a camper, was arrested and incarcerated in jail in California and got a dishonorable discharge, had never served in Vietnam, but getting disability from the VA. The other fellow, who was advisor to our local Congressman, was a national committee chairman with the VVA. He also had multiple arrest and convictions. He also had never served in Vietnam. When the ceremony came about and these fellows typically were the group that we all know the pony tail, the bandana, the black leather jackets, the chains, the medals hanging all over, everything else, we are going to have the ceremony, international display. I set up a kind of a guest of honor area where I roped off an area you had to come in by pass and I had the next of kin inside the ropes and I had all these Vietnam veterans. We had a bunch of POWs from the American Airlines, Delta and Southwest Airlines pilots who were probably close to a dozen of them. All we know the Medal of Honor recipients from Texas. I mean all the people that you would want the Press to talk to. Everyone of us on the Committee was basically a business man in Dallas. 65 separate news services and we had a flyover that looked like Vietnam all over again. We had a flight of the B-52s come in a few hundred feet, KC-135s, Marine F-4s, Air Force F-4s and then a flight of UH helicopters and we had the Fort Hood band, we had an Honor Guard. We had I think six howitzers firing often. This is the Veterans Day in 1989. I am thinking Thank God this is over, this has been -- I won’t say the worst period of my life -- but it was a very difficult time because I was trying to, you know I just gotten married not too long before that, I’m having trouble at work in the sense of spending time on this thing, but I my room mate was from Texas, I was not originally from there but my roommate who was from Texas was killed in a 25th Infantry, posthumously awarded a Silver Star and the 199th lost about 750 men, so this was my civic project, I wasn’t a Cub Scout leader, I wasn’t doing basketball for youth clubs, this was my contribution. I thought it was going to be over. When that ceremony broke up, not one single news service interviewed any of our dignitaries, any of our families or any of the people were on the Committee, they went behind the rows and they interviewed guys in the fatigues and the bandannas almost all of them local. I had gotten their military records and not one was a real Vietnam veterans. On all our local stations at night, these individuals were going off, Oh, I’ve had post-traumatic stress for 15 years, they would start crying and they were talking about how they had to kill 22 VC with bare hands and they see their faces and they are green, I mean it is just the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard. I realized that at that point, all I had done is build a big tombstone that made the families feel good. I had not changed anybody’s opinion, I had not convinced anybody that even had given us money, you know, there was a worthy group here Vietnam veterans and even the phrase Vietnam veterans, late in my campaign, I put out the memo, don’t ever use that phrase and everybody like, what do you mean. I said that phrase alone conjures up an image. You say Vietnam veteran even today, you think drug addiction, unemployment and all these types of things, and I had them brought home to me. There is a thing called the Long Horn Ballroom, right on the fringe of Downtown Dallas, huge honky tonk, I mean they probably, they could bring in beer about a tanker car, they get about 3500 patrons Saturday night. The proprietor-owner comes to us and says, I am not a Vietnam veteran but I want to support you guys, I want to give you a night. I will give you all the profits and I will give you all the cover charge, puts this huge banner up honoring Vietnam veterans, help build a Texas Vietnam Memorial and he gave some kind of discount to Vietnam veterans themselves. I am there with about seven or eight of the people on the Committee and their wives and we had all the musicians donated their time. The was a man named Jeffrey Walker who is pretty famous regionally and maybe nationally, I am not a country western fan particularly but I am looking for major bucks here. Fourteen couples entered that facility that night. The second they saw Vietnam veterans, they said, oh honey, we are not going in there, those crazies are in there. Those killers are in there. You know the proprietor could not figure out what had happened but I just instinctively knew we had just made a big mistake in using that phrase and trying to attract people to come “mingle” with the local Vietnam veterans.

Anyway, the episode was over and I started trying to decide. Personally I was just irritated as hell and I had all this research and I thought I have got to do some. I can’t do a movie. I can’t get on the air. They are not going to put me on 60 Minutes with what I have got. So I am going to do a book. So I kind of started doing a summary of what I want to do and I had some author friends and I put it around to some of the publishers and that was it. There is nothing, no interest. About that time, a Reader’s Digest editor calls me, Malcolm McConnell who did a book called Inside the Hanoi Archives. Malcolm calls me and he starts talking and he says what are you doing, I say well I am a stockbroker, and he says you are a stockbroker? I said yes and I said why, and he said the Pentagon told me to call you, I was asking for some information and they said you were the guy to talk to, so I ask him what he is doing, he told me he is writing this book and he was looking for background material on several individuals that he wanted to have in his book, one of them was a guy named Larry Pistili and he starts clicking off, I can’t remember, all the names. He starts clicking off in all of these names and every single one, I had already gotten their military records, none of one of them was in Vietnam. Now Pistili was a little Lieutenant assigned to Korea but he is quoted in one or more books about how he was POW and he was tortured by Chinese and Soviet interrogators and all this stuff and we go through this thing and Malcolm was just deflated, I think, at first because he was thinking he had this all this juicy stuff. Anyway, calls me back in an hour and says you are going to be there this weekend and I said, yeah. and he says we are meeting at the airport. I said you coming to Dallas? He says no I am coming to see you. He comes down there and he does a story in Readers Digest about my research. That immediately came to the attention of 20-20. That producer calls me, young guy at that time, he comes down and we spend days going through the material and all this stuff. He does a 20-20 piece and what we did, there was a documentary that had just been done by Dan Rather called “The Wall Within” and Walter Cronkite took that hour documentary and what it was put on nearly about post traumatic stress even though they did not emphasize that but it was six individuals “hiding out in the forest of Washington,” and they got them all on camera to tell all of the horrible atrocities and the nightmares they are now having. One said he lived in a log in the woods, just on and on. I had gotten all the military records of the guys in the piece, five had just completely made this whole thing up. The other one actually was a combat veteran who I think probably was delusionary but I could not automatically say he was not there and everything he said was false, but anyway 20-20 does a piece basically on Dan Rather and, boy, World World III started then and there. Chairman to chairman were talking, lawyer to lawyer were talking and what they ended up doing, ABC did not really back down but when they edited the thing, they took Dan Rather out of the piece, before that they actually got Dan Rather standing there asking the question rather they are just focusing on these guys’ answers. In the meantime, Walter Cronkite had taken that hour and then reintroduced it and it was now part of the CBS history of Vietnam which they were donating to hundreds of schools and they were selling it in the video stores and in the catalogues. We got into a huge fight, in terms of whether I had any credibility and whether ABC was going to run the piece. They finally ran it and ended up winning a Emmy Award and the whole time CBS kept saying we stand behind our documentary or the producers stand behind the documentary. Within weeks, they withdrew that documentary and that whole film package from the stores. That segment is no longer in there but they never admitted they have done anything wrong.

In the meantime, I get Dan Rather’s military record, because he is on public record in many, many places saying he is a two-tour Marine. Well, when Dan Rather was in college, he was from Texas, went to Sam Houston State, he was eligible for the draft and during the Korean War at that time, you could be drafted out of college and all you got to do is finish the current term or year that you were in. He did not get full blanket exemption for the four years. He joins a reserve unit, basically goes. The second the war ended, he drops out of the reserves, he then graduates from college and goes into the PLC program with the Marine Corpa, cannot do the physical activity and gets kicked out before he gets through basic training and he is now claiming and still claims that he is two-tour Marine. We did not put that in the television piece.

Once this started happening, once Reader’s Digest did the story, once 20-20 did the story, I started checking more of everything related to Vietnam, statistics, you know post traumatic stress, Agent Orange. I started checking the records of all the veterans’ advocates, I started checking New York Times stories. I started everything that I could get my hands on, I went to the Dallas library and a lot of this stuff is on microfilm, the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, started pulling out the old articles. There were two guys down in San Antonio running a Vietnam War Museum and it got national news about that, one was a Seal and one was Green Beret, which little bit like mating a chicken with a duck, and I got both their military records, both of them just completely made it up and one guy had several federal convictions for stealing weapons. When he was in the Coast Guard Reserves, he had broken in an armory and sold the weapons. But neither one of the individuals knew that the other one was fake, I mean they each thought the other guy was legitimate.

The continuation of this thing, I mentioned the unemployment, I mentioned the crime, it was always the thing about the air which Vietnam veterans is 19 years old and he was drafted. Well I got into that with a selective service board. They were a little over 9 million men served during the Vietnam War, they were only 2 million drafted. We had the greatest volunteer rate of any army America had ever produced. World War II, I looked into that group, I did some comparison, not to make it negative but because they had the good war and we have the bad war and I wanted to compare the like statistics. There were 15 million men eligible registered with the draft in World War II, only 5 million voluntarily enlisted. 20 million were sent draft notices and almost half flunked the draft physical or the aptitude test, so only one-third of World War II veterans volunteered and the vast majority of the people that went in did not line up December 8, 1941. There were no facilities to train and, at one point, it got so bad that the government led a 100,000 convicted fellows out of prison with a proviso that if you serve honorably and survive, your sentence will be commuted. We get beat up for Project 100,000 which was a similar type program, you don’t ever see any mention about that with World War II. This average age being 19, I looked into that, the average age of Vietnam veterans was just a smidgeon below 23. The average age of World War II veterans is quoted as 26. The problem though is that was the age recorded at their individual demobilization which in a lot of cases was a year and a half to two years after the time they were actually in the military and their draft went up to age 35, so the reality is, there was a great similarity between the age levels. Only 45% of World War II veterans had a high school education. 80% of Vietnam veterans had at least a high school education and, of course, 71% of them went back to school. In 1968-69, 23% of the incoming enlisted man had some college. I mean we had the highest educational rate going and I had a driver in Vietnam who was a Spec-4 that had a masters degree and had done all of his work on a PhD except the final dissertation. I mean he had been working on it but he did not put it in before he went into military. We did not call him “Trooper” or “Spec-4,” we called him “Doctor.”

The statistics on suicide, this bit about a 100,000 Vietnam veterans had killed themselves twice the number of that had listed on the war. I had had several episodes while I was doing the memorial where individuals in the region had killed themselves who billed themselves as Vietnam veterans and of course that was always easy to check, because I knew I could get the death certificate and I went from there. The irony is out of that group, only one was a real Vietnam veterans and in his will, he left us 100% of his estate to go to Vietnam Memorial which was both a blessing and a curse because the family now semi-… they were divorced but he got a daughter that was in her early 20s, there was no money to bury him and they were really hacked off and we kind of, our board took a vote and we actually buried him, paid for the funeral, I mean we did not have to do that but it was the right thing to do, that was the only one that was a real Vietnam veteran.

Blacks: Everybody knows the Blacks suffered disproportionably in Vietnam. I would hear this and we had several Black City Council members and every time I would go in front of them, one Black woman particularly would stand up and say, we got to back this man because we know the vast majority of these kids were black and they got drafted involuntarily. I never said a word. I mean here was the statistic I knew was wrong. I let her use it for propaganda. Black males constituted 13.5% of the draft age males. You don’t draft 6-year-old girls or 80-year-old grandmothers, in the group that could be drafted, there were 13.5%. They suffered 12.5% of the casualties. They actually suffered less. The Mexican-American, the Hispanics actually suffered less, and one reason the statistics looked bigger than they should is because when they do it they don’t cover the base population of Puerto Rico in the figures but they count all the Puerto Ricans in the figures, they count all the Mexican Nationals in the figures, they count the Filipinos with Spanish names in the figures, so when you look at domestic US citizen Hispanic, they suffered less and the reasons for that, I mean you look at the social discrimination, they had lower education and they had lower health, they flunked the draft physical and the entrance exam at a greater a rate. Now the other bizarre thing, I was in Vietnam in the 1999 and there was a four-month period in which my Commanding General was Black, my Battalion Commander was Black, my Company Commander was Black and two of the Platoon Leaders were Black. Every single one of those men had a college education and that Black General, I can say unequivocally, was the finest officer that I personally knew and served under while I was in the military. I checked into it and it turns out there are thousands of Black officers that served in Vietnam, almost 300 of those men have gone on to become Admirals or Generals in some branch of the military, the Reserves, the Guard, Army, Navy, whatever it is. Somebody mentioned earlier that rather than being portrayed as patriotic, Vietnam veterans were portrayed as being victims; it could not be truer than among in the minorities. You had 20 Blacks that were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. You had a hundred that were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. I have addressed Black groups and I can guarantee you nobody can name a single Black hero and when it comes to Blacks in the military, Colin Power was about the only one that comes to mind for anybody. I mean that to me is a tragedy here. It comes into play into politics because when we have the first Gulf War, the Black community was decidedly against the war even though the white community wasn’t and the reason was that they were drafted disproportionately and killed in Vietnam and it was going to happen again. We also had a little bit of that related to Iraq and Afghanistan and in neither one of those wars, did the Black casualties equal the demographic number if it was across the board. Only group that has suffered disproportionately in all three of those wars are Caucasian males and it is not an indictment but it is an erroneous assumption out there in terms of who is paying the price for our wars.

 

Homelessness. There is a magazine in Dallas called “D” Magazine, which is kind of a regional version like The New Yorker, nowhere near as good, but it was run at that time and still run by a man named Wick Allison who had been the publisher of the National Review and they were doing a story, did a cover story on my work and the Memorial and everything else and one day, we were just casually talking and he said, how do you explain all these homeless Vietnam veterans, I mean, you keep talking about all these exemplary Vietnam veterans and their employment and I said virtually none of these guys are Vietnam veterans and he says, come on, you could ride around Downtown Dallas to see 20 of them in probably an hour. I said I don’t care, they are not Vietnam veterans. Not another word was said and, of course magazines, as many of you know, will do a story that wouldn’t be published for three or four months. What he did was take a reporter and a photographer, send them around for several weeks, to all the soup kitchen, to vet centers, the Salvation Army, the corners, and any time there was an indication that the guy was an Vietnam veteran, they would go up to him, start talking and if he confirmed it, he would say it to the reporter, they get very enthusiastic and say man, we love to hear your story, and of course these guys mostly love the attention, they would pay them for an interview and they virtually didn’t have anybody declining them. One day, I am in there in a meeting, we were doing some of the follow-up on the story, fact checking and everything else and he brings in this stack of interviews and got all the data they could get from the County and they got all the Social Security Number from the County Welfare Office Office and said, you are saying these people are not Vietnam veterans, prove it. I spent some time getting the records of these individuals. A handful of them served in the military, actually had been in the military. Almost every single one of them had some kind of Bad Conduct Discharge, or Dishonorable Discharge. There was one individual, and the area around Dallas has got about a population about 5 million people if you reach around the surrounding counties. He found one Vietnam veteran in that entire group looking as hard as he could look and he was a Marine that had a felony conviction as a youth like 17 or 18, the Judge let him go in the Marine Corps, got into Marine Corps, went to Vietnam and punched out some superior officer and got a Dishonorable Discharge. That was the only one. Yet the collective public in Dallas County thinks that everybody on the street is a Vietnam veteran and you hear that over and over again through these advocacy groups.

One of the stories in the book is actually a Boston story. They have a New England Mission for the Homeless here, it was run by a guy named Ken Smith. I saw this guy in Heraldo and he was had some Vietnam veterans with him and they were going through the litany of their Vietnam service and everything and Smith had talked about his glorious combat in Vietnam and the Easter Offensive and all that stuff. I get his military record and he was in Vietnam at that time but he was a security guard, didn’t even have a Combat Infantry Badge and never came under fire, basically concocted his whole record. I then checked further and he had multiple felony convictions for embezzlement and fraud and all this. Now the Kennedy’s got this man 20 million dollars to start this facility, got him the building and of course money starting disappearing in the balance, they did not match up and I frankly don’t know what happened to the guy but he is in my book. You all hear the same kind of thing about the homeless, it goes on like the suicide rates.

Another TV story. This also is false. And actually I love this story more probably than any single story. There is a guy named Joe Yando. Joe Yando was a Marine and this is his story. He was in Vietnam and he fought at the battle of Khe Sanh. His best friend had to go out in the open, got shot, hung up on the wire, took a day and a half to die and they could not get him and they had to listen to him scream and Joe had to go take him off the wire and you know Joe was wounded and Joe got a Bronze Star, etc. He comes home because of the horrors, he got addicted to heroin in Vietnam. He hooks up with a buddy and they got just about money to get one gun and one car and they spend the weekends robbing gas stations and convenience stores and they alternate, one goes in with the gun in this street, they go to another street and they switch places and the other one goes in and of course threaten to kill whatever proprietor’s in there and take off the money up. They apparently get caught, they get convicted, they go to prison for life without parole. Well, Joe being the great Vietnam veteran he is, starts a chapter at the Vietnam Veterans of America in prison. VVA has got I don’t know how many chapters in prison. You don’t go to prison with your DD214, so you become a Vietnam veteran in prison going to the chapter basically about saying I will do it. He rises to the position of chairman or whatever the title is for the state of Massachusetts. They have the state intervention in the prison record. This is during the time of Dukakis and those of you in this area know Willy Horten where he [Dukakis] was letting convicted murderers go home on the weekends, he thought it was good therapy, until Willie Horton goes out and kills somebody and they decided that was not such a good idea, Good old Joe is going out, hooks up with his girlfriend, fathers a couple of kids at least so he thinks, it turns out one of them is by another man, and the VVA that jumps into the argument that poor Joe is now family man and really should be let out and he has straightened his life out. The Boston University gave Joe $20,000 dollars tuition money to get both an undergraduate degree and a masters. Now the [wife of the] guy that he killed in the convenience store was working, trying to put his kids through college, they did not give them any tuition money and she is working as a waitress. The VVA then starts a campaign that good ol’ Joe should not be in prison. They hook up for the Boston Globe. The Boston Globe does probably does probably 20 positive references to Joe. They would commemorate his birthday or they would commemorate what year it was in prison, they’d do feature stories on him in the Sunday Magazine. Mike Wallace jumps into it, does a piece of him and then they rerun it twice. The Governor at that time was Weld and he is getting flooded with “let Joe out, he is a good man, that the evil war turned him bad and he is a reconstructed human being.” I go get Joe’s military record and, remember, he has gone through a trial. He has got prosecutors, they got investigators, actually form a commission on the commutation to check all this out. I get his military record and during the battle of Khe Sanh he was in the brig at Yorktown for tearing up the Enlisted Men’s Club. The only overseas assignment the guy had was an inventory clerk in Okinawa, never served in Vietnam. I didn’t have immediate communication with the Boston area and I am assuming all of this is going to be discovered until I see something in the VVA where they say the release is imminent, because they think the Governor is going to commute the sentence. I call the Governor’s Office, ask for the aide that’s is handling this case, telling everything I know and say look, you need to go and get the record but I will certainly send to you, just tell me, give me a call back and tell me where to send it. I don’t hear from the guy for a few days and bam, the guy had his sentenced commuted. He is out. I then call Mike Wallace because I knew some producers from 60 Minutes and after this discussion with him and he is kind of silent on the issue, I send him the records they check and it is like, oh God! You’re right and I am saying Mike, this is a great story, you known integrity of journalism. That is 60 Minutes, run this and correct your mistake. He puts me off for four months. I realize he is not going to do it. He was saying we are going to do it on 60 Minutes II, hey, the season’s out, we are doing reruns, I mean, there is always an excuse. I took it back to ABC, they run the story, I mean, they do the research and the last step is to confront Yando, who is now living in Vermont and asked me what’s Yando is going to do. Well it was kind of a prohibition, I think, one, he is not going to talk to them and, when they go back in the morning, he is not going to be gone, he is not going to wait around and get sent him back to prison. They put the camera in his face he basically says, I wondered to know how long it was going to take you, sure I did that, oh yeah those papers were false, the producers calling me on the cell phone, trying him like hell to get back to New York to get all this on tape. Yando, in the meantime, calls Wallace and apologizes to him. He is like, thank you for getting me out of prison but I got something to tell you. Wallace then calls me and wants me to go on that evening news and I said go to hell, I am not doing it. He had the opportunity and I am doing it with ABC which was going to be this is like on a Tuesday or Wednesday, we are running it on Friday. Anyway, we ran it on Friday, they arrested Yando on Saturday morning very early and Wallace on Sunday in 60 Minutes where you think the commercials, you know, the screens blackened at commercials going to popup for office except Mike Wallace pops up and he’s just sitting in a chair with a blank background and then starts to tell us the real situation with Joe Yando and it was not apology, but it was like we are calm like everybody else, like the Governor and eventually this whole listening. He goes to say CBS did not like me very much and they I know bashed the documentary and 60 minutes. The other bizarre thing is they discovered they could not put Joe Yando back in prison under the original sentence because you can’t revoke a commutation. And now it is like what in the hell are we going to do now and of course is a big uproar from the public about do something. They end up figuring up, if there is some violation related to perjury during the various hearings related to this and he has gone back to prison for murder but he has only gone back and he comes up for parole every five years. I think we have gone through that once and I think we are getting ready to come up on it again. I get called from, there is a student group I think at Harvard, this is a project to get old Joe out of prison and they go back at it again, you know every time that some Professor makes this the class project.

Brian Dennehy, the actor, he had done several 60s and 70s interview about his tour in Vietnam and Playboy magazine did a feature story, New York Times did a full page story and he is always talking about how acting became his therapy for his post traumatic stress and all the horrors and dead guys he had seen all this stuff. I get his military record. He had been on a football scholarship at Columbia. He just flunked out of it, went into the Marine Corps, went to Monterey language school, learnt French and then ended up going to Okinawa where because of his football, he was in the gym handing out footballs and basketballs to play it on the Marine Corps football team. No Vietnam. He was out of the Marine Corps in 1963. I contacted him, told him what I had and I got this six- or eight page handwritten letter back, begging me not reveal this because he was an honest, patriotic American and this would damage his career and the funny personal thing about this is, I have been now invited to the White House, the Army has given me their highest civilian award and I have gotten all of these accolades because of this book. The only thing that ever impressed my wife about any of this is that handwritten letter in Brian Dennehy’s handwriting.

The television, as we all know, nothing is history in America until television does it. We Texas have the same thing with the Alamo, it does not matter what happened at the Alamo, it just mattered what John Wayne said happened at the Alamo, whatever version is now out there. One of the speakers mentioned Professor [Walter] Capps, University of Southern California, until his death, he became the US Congressman, did a theories where he was holding the biggest history class in America filled his auditorium and he would bring in speakers and he would bring in a legitimate people but one of his stars was this guy named Gisele. Gisele was a Green Beret and fought in the battle of Dong Xoai and I got a video tape of this and he would cry at the appropriate time, talking about killing VC and buddies dying and all this kind of thing and of course he gets a standing ovation. He has been doing it for 10 years. I get his military record and while this is all going on, he was an MP in Japan and I had several other cases that again, I went back to 20/20 and that got woven into another 20/20 piece. He was getting VA benefits and we did a piece on Yando, too, which did not win an award which surprised me because I thought that was the best one but the third one we did won an Emmy. Needless to say, he is no longer lecturing and I called Capps and Capps was kind of blasÚ about it, it was so like, well yeah, but he tells a good story. He was like he didn’t care whether it was true or not and I did not realize he already declared running for Congress and I had some local newspaper people jump on my case, because I was obviously trying to smear the Professor. I did not even know he was running for Congress and he is a locally elected, he ended up I think dying of a heart attack at Dulles Airport.

A guy named Dave Golf up in Syracuse, New York, a ceremony up there in Congressman Walsh awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross and again he gives huge interviews, local press and some of the VVA stuff talking about how he was in the unit of special assassinations and how the military had white washed his record and all this stuff. I get the thing and it’s just total bunk. He just made the whole thing up. I tried to get everybody from the Congressman to some of the veterans groups to do something, they would not do anything, in the meantime, Reader’s Digest does another story and I actually felt kind of proud about this the editor up there said, Burkett you don’t understand, we didn’t do two stories on Winston Churchill, but they did this story again and by this time, Walsh is now hacked off because he is getting publicly humiliated about giving this guy the Distinguished Services Cross. We got that guy federally convicted wearing medals which was not owned.

Command Sergeant Major Ricciardi [E-9]. He was in a 79th Infantry Division in New Jersey, Reservist and he was on a board that actually picked individuals to go to Special Forces school. He ran a kind of a tactical Special Forces thing for them in the New Jersey Guard and they had a division, he got noticed one day that he was belatedly; he had been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross that had never been presented to him. This was sent to his commanding general and they had prayed and they awarded him Distinguished Service Cross. I checked and when he claims that he was doing all this, I was able to find a license for getting married that he had signed in New Jersey etc, etc, he was in Vietnam. He was a fellow telephone operators, those plug-in telephones in one of the base camps, had no Green Beret status, had no Combat Infantryman’s Badge, had nothing. I gave that to the Commanding General of the Division, he assigned a Warrant Officer to investigate. The Warrant Officer gets facts of the case, you are absolutely right. I am sure the General was going to do something with this, I didn’t hear anything for 30 days. I called back and I said, you told me the general was going to do something, what did he do. With a moment of hesitation, he said, well sir, he did do something, he transferred him to another unit. I called the new unit and they couldn’t have cared less. So now I go back and try to find somebody important in the army, fortunately the head of Reserve for the Department of the Army was the guy, the last name is Clark, and he was the son of Mark Clark, both father and son were West Pointers, both had won the Distinguished Service Cross. This hit his hot button. They ended up ruling administratively that Ricciardi had now worn that medal for, I think, a total of seven years, they were reverted back to the time of “Good Service” which took him a few months less than 20 and they threw him out of the service. He was a deputy fire chief in Newark and in New Jersey you get points for valorous decorations and every time he came up for a promotion, he was able to doctor his own record in the Reserve to show that he had a Silver Star or some medal and of course this Distinguished Service Cross was the crowning movement that got him deputy fire chief. He had never beaten anybody on that exam to get the position, he always jumped ahead of them. I took it to the Mayor in the City Council and he called up because there was a black fireman’s group in Newark which has a race problem and they were furious that many of their members had been beaten out this guy for promotion and so the Mayor had to diffuse this whole thing and lets the guy instantly retire. He is now living in Florida and owns about three condos down there, kept his retirement in New Jersey.

The situation -- are there any guys who served in Korea? the one here -- three years ago, there was a story about the massacre at No Gun Ri which is a rail bridge in Korea. Some South Koreans had gone to the local AP office in Seoul and complained that this story had been hidden both from their government and from the American people that their children or their ancestors had been killed there. The AP does some research and the unit there was the Seventh Cav. So they contact the Seventh Cav Association and asked to talk to members that would have been in the unit at that time and one of the first guys that comes to mind is the guy named Ed Daily, who had been President of the Seventh Cav Association. He had written two biographies about his combat in Korea. He had gotten a battle field commission. He had been captured during the retreat, managed to escape because of the chaos and had been awarded a Distinguished Service Cross. He had lectured at West Point, all the major [service] academies, would do tours, Army sponsored tours to speak to the troops, Fort Hood, Fort Sill, etc escorted by officers and when he was interviewed for this story, Brokaw catches on to it and thanks him and his two buddies that also said they were in Korea and they do an hour documentary recounting how they had done the massacre with the machine guns, all that stuff. A professor who was a Major at that time at West Pointer calls me and he has done several book reviews on Stolen Valor in various military journals and he said there is some more, I know this guy personally because as a Captain, I escorted him at Fort Hood. I totally have believed he had say but in this interview, they did some things tactically and there’s just something wrong here, I walk him through, I get the military record and then walking through getting the morning reports all the duty rosters, everything, action reports, the whole bit. Ed Daily, was an E-4 mechanic in an ordinance unit, 60 miles away, he was never in this battle. The other two guys that had been in the unit, but they had been wounded and medevaced before this particular episode. They were not there either. AP, by this time, had gotten tremendous publicity. The Pentagon was doing an investigation and, of course, their investigation was somewhat inconclusive because during that retreat, you had more than one warring fraction, you had the North Korean Communists, you had the Chinese Communists, you actually had South Korean, I mean you had South Korean Communists, fighting the South Korean Government, fighting the Americans, fighting some of the Allies and lead is flying everywhere and a lot of civilians got killed. I mean not intentionally but there were some that died. In any event, we notify the AP, provide all the records to the AP about how they just screwed this story up, rather than say, we will look into it, they immediately start a war of words with us, tell us basically to go to hell, they submit that story to the Pulitzer Committee and they win the Prize. The Pulitzer Committee has refused to review that story. Again it is one those stories, the American Government slaughtered civilians which those of us have served in Vietnam, that should be nothing new.

Tomorrow, I think I am leaving here in half an hour, I am going to Quantico, to testify. I have been there about three times with this case. There is a Active Duty Navy Captain named Roger Edwards and Roger Edwards until recently was the Navy’s liaison to the Pentagon for all medical services to the Marine Corps, hospitals, doctors, nurses, the whole bit. The Commandant of the Marine Corps this was back before Jones was made Allied Commander in Europe. This man had such exemplary service, he wanted to make him an Honorary Marine. So there’s a ceremony at Marine Corps barracks make him an honorary Marine at a reception, I hear about it and get the program and this man had gone to Naval ROTC but prior to that he had been a Green Beret medic in Vietnam and during that period of time, he had been awarded the Silver Star, multiple Purple Hearts, and Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Stars and the whole bit. He had worn these decorations, all through his promotion boards, everything else etc. I get his military record. He was a practical nurse in Vietnam at a dispensary in the Mekong Delta servicing some helicopter. I called Jim Webb, he referred me to an Admiral in the Navy. We work for about two weeks, the Navy decided they didn’t want to do it and so they sent it back to the Marine Corps which technically is assigned to the Marine Corps, something I didn’t know. If you’re a Naval Officer assigned a Marine Command, you wear Navy insignia but you wear a Marine uniform. I didn’t know that. So he looked like a Marine for years. Anyway the Marine Corps, took kind of a negative attitude toward the good Captain, embarrassed to comment on. They go after him. I mean I file a complaint. They go after him, and give him a hearing, file Article 32 against him and for the last year and a half he has been fighting. You know the Army does not keep good records. They did not Mirandize me. I have got post traumatic stress and I can’t be tried because I can’t defend myself and he wants to retire now under disability, all of those things are knocked down and about two weeks ago, he caved in and he has admitted to all the major charges and what we’re hopefully going to is going to be the final hearing sentencing but they want myself there and another FBI agent I worked with, of course, in case he starts back pedaling.

This concept of these individuals over the years, and what I discovered, there is a social phenomenon, but this is not am isolated case. I have worked with the Medal of Honor Society, I worked with Mitchell Page before he died, worked with the SEALs, I worked with the Swift Boats, you know every one of those organizations have exposed hundreds if not thousands of individuals that have claimed to have served in their particular organizations. I mean the SEALs, only about a thousand during the entirety of the war they had ever served in Vietnam and they have exposed thousands of individuals doing this. I have checked 2000 national stories in the print press. I have checked books, the military books, a military book by Warner Smith, called Covert Warrior by Presidio. I provided Presidio this guy’s military record, total bunk. They had the book at the press already in printing, they said the heck with it, I think it is not going to go far, but they promote the hell of it, then sell it to the military book club, I gave the military book club, his military record. This guy claimed all his covert operations in South Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, even one mission in South China. I get his military record and he had gone to flight school at Pensacola and he had flunked out or was kicked out and went to Officer Maintenance School and served at airstrip in Philippines, just made this thing up whole sick.

Tom Clancy -- there was a guy that flew helicopters out of Jacksonville that became a budding author and he was an high school buddy of Clancy’s and Clancy wrote the foreword of all these books and right at the printing of the third book, the guy dies of a heart attack and Clancy in that book, does an eulogy at the end of it, goes through all these heroic missions of this guy in Vietnam, same thing, the guy just made it up. It is not hard to make up great stories and put in books when you just get to make them up, but all of that collectively is what has created this negative image of us because in the early years, most of these individuals were victims. I mean they were homeless because, they beat their wives because, they were Vietnam veterans. The shift now has gone and I think, I say this in the book, it is sort of a dividing point was when the Rambo movie came out, you now had a man, a war hero, Medal of Honor recipient, gone berserk so he is hero but he is also a victim of his own war, we have now become “sympathetic” as opposed to “wanton killers” that need to be kind of watched in and kept out of main stream society, we are victims now and all these advocacy groups constantly are saying they’re helping the homeless, helping the hundreds or thousands of GI’s on the verge of killing themselves. I recently did a study and it is causing some -- I would say did it -- I worked with some psychiatrist in the VA, and, just believe me, I had three failed attempts inside the VA because, boy, you talk about politics coming into play, when you start tampering with the VA and their patient cut-- we were able to pull a hundred Vietnam veteran records, that are getting a 100% post traumatic stress. Thirty six ran backscreen placed _____, plus a lot of other benefits that go along with it. I had guys working from our Memorial backing when, these guys would not be disabled in a wheelchair and yet they would file under the disability cause where they would get their share, wheelchair lift and they would run an apartment moving service on the weekends using the lift. I mean they get a panel truck or something like that and they were just completely off the books, they could get a free computer, some of them had various computer software deals set up with their wife before they had a full time job and they were using the VA computer to start another business. Anyway these hundred at random that gave me without their name, just social security numbers, I ran their records and 39 of them were Vietnam veterans who served in combat and it was easily provable. Now that itself is not conclusive because I lecture at a lot of veterans conventions and I have not gone to a single one of them and with some guy would come up and say, God I love your book. I was a Platoon Sergeant in the First Infantry. That’s the best damned book I have read about Vietnam but you made me feel guilty as hell, and I said why is that, and he said, well! I got to tell you, I am getting 100% disability for post traumatic stress. Have you got post traumatic stress? Hell no, they are giving away free money, why should those bastards who weren’t there get it when the real guys are not getting it? And of course you can buy manuals that tell you how to do it. In the VA now, a lot of regions are sending solicitation letters. I mean if they have got your name, they will send you a letter saying, had you been checked for Agent Orange or post traumatic stress?

Anyway back to this study, 50 additional guys, 40 something, 48 or 49, were Vietnam veterans but they were decidedly in non-combat jobs, I mean if they got stressed, it was because they didn’t have any enough chlorine in the swimming pool ____. The rest of them either were not in Vietnam. Some of them had never been in the military, and that blew the mind of the psychiatrist in that facility to treat. Now we submitted that study and very academically done under the psychiatrist had been very well published previously, we submitted it to the American Journal of Psychiatry and of course, they have a peer group that reviews these studies. Guess what, there were some people from the VA on the peer review group that immediately rejected this study. So we went back and we actually were able to beef it up because they were able to get some of the clinical stuff where we could determine what they had told the psychiatrist which was not really in the first with just this study even better. We now submitted it to the British Journal of Psychiatry which we think it is going to be published there, and immediately, word got out. Word got out that this thing was out there and this psychiatrist was called in and it looked like his job was on the line. Now fortunately, there is new Deputy Secretary in there, a guy named Gordon Mansfield. I met Gordon Mansfield recently at the Legion of Valor dinner at their convention, Gordon was a Company Commander in Vietnam, lost both legs, had been head of the Paralyzed Veterans Association and he cares. He wants to root out these people that are taking money from legitimate veterans.

 

I am going to talk about this a couple of more minutes and I opening to questions.

 

You know all of this image thing, I have John Kerrey in my book and it is kind of interesting because I have done over 500 radio interviews since this book came out a little over 5 years ago, and boy, when Kerrey declared, there was a resurgence of interviews because a lot of these guys remembered that Kerrey is in my book and if I had known he was going to run for president, Kerrey would have been in one or two chapters in my book, I think in VVA, VVAW and all this kind of thing. In any event, stop and think back to your own experience, most of you Vietnam, you came home and like I am talking, I got home in 1969 went to Graduate school, right in the middle of the anti-war movement. We did not wear our uniforms, we were advised not to go off post. A lot of guys worried about getting their hair cut short, because even if we did not work, we identified as a GI but the American public just had sort of anecdotal evidence about Vietnam veterans. They would hear about fragging, but it was just you know, they were not many names past this. They would hear about suicide which -- by the way, I do not know if you noticed but in Iraq and Afghanistan, 35 individuals have killed themselves, suicide which is 3.5% of those who have died, that is a rate about seven times higher than that which occurred in Vietnam. Vietnam veterans suicide rate is one quarter of the rate of World War II veterans. It is one-half the rate of US medical doctors but in World War II, in Europe, 1300 GIs killed themselves in 11 months by suicide.

I just remembered another World War II statistics I forgot and I mentioned this to several you at lunch. Atrocities is what we always nailed with My Lai etc, but as I mentioned, it was anecdotal until My Lai and then after My Lai it became every man does that. I checked World War II and it kind of shocked me, between Normandy and the Armistice, there were almost 1000 American GI’s tried for capital crimes in Europe. Mostly atrocities against civilians or execution of POWs. 443 of those men were condemned to death. 96 were executed. 300 American GI’s were executed in World War II. You don’t see that in history books. You know like, when you go into archives and you start digging through the JAG files, those cases are in there. The reason, I believe, first of all that was the last war in which the American Press was on the American side. I mean we had somebody mention today about the press going to the government saying how can we cooperate, how can the movie industry cooperate, obviously that is not what they did during Vietnam but the aftermath of the war, we were trying Nuremberg Nazis and believe me, you read some of these case files and you could have just about match American atrocities to a most Nazi atrocity other than killing 6 million Jews, I mean whether they wiped out of French Hamlet, in reprisal, etc, they did that in World War II.

 

Real quick on Kerrey. When Kerrey got in that organization and dropped into Washington, that was the first time, the American public collectively saw Vietnam veterans, suddenly that is what we have been hearing about and they are in there in pony tails and bandanas and you can smell the marijuana smoke and you know this is the most disheveled bunch of bums you have ever seen, obviously they are not working, or are on some kind of disability because they are there during the business day and this cemented the image in the American minds and more importantly, it cemented that image in the mind of the Press and Hollywood started picking up that theme. They actually kind of picked it up before that and we had Michael Lanning talk about how Hollywood went with that image and it is unbelievable, you know what has happened, how the American belief about Vietnam, and to me it is tremendously sad because this has all been passed down generationally.

This will be the last comment before I open up for questions. I lectured a lot at colleges and high schools and I typically get up and do what I am doing now, I am not a public speaker, I just look at the clock and I talk until I quit, but if I have got a blackboard behind me, I will turn around this group and I have done many auditoriums like this, I will write, not at the moment, I will write these things on the board, these phrases, rapist, Mayor of your city, Nobel Prize recipient, child molester. Then over on the right, I will write World War II veteran, Vietnam veteran and I will say okay class, we are going to take a vote, we are going to pick this word “Rapist,” you are going to go how many, you are going to tell me whether you want it to go under World War II veteran or Vietnam veteran. Let’s take a vote, and often it is not unanimous, but I have never had a negative term put under World War II, I have never had a positive term put under Vietnam veterans and these kids are the unwashed. I mean they were not there, they didn’t form their mind set during the antiwar movement or anything else but it is totally engrained in them that this is who we were collectively and this is what America did during the Vietnam War and that is the tragedy. You know, the Gulf War, nobody ever made a comment about this, but every single officer in that war and it was a hammer crushing a fly which is what we have had some talk about that today though that the gradualization, every one of those officers from the rank of Colonel up through Schwartzkopf was a Vietnam veteran but nobody ever made that connection.

I am going to quit talking and I have got to get out of here pretty quickly anyway.

 

Fred Rice: You said several times that you checked the records and you checked hundreds and thousands, I am sure, I am sure you don’t go and fill out an individual form each time, how do you get that many records that quickly because there is a couple of guys I would like to check on locally too that I am really suspicious of?

 

Burkett: Lot of times, I don’t get them quickly, but one of the things that has happened which happens to any others is, if you deal with an organization repeatedly, and I probably, you think about it, I have probably put in, even now, I have probably put in 1 FOIA request a day. I can fax it. I mean I know who to send it to, a lot of the people in these facilities whether it is the FBI or wherever it is, I work a lot for the FBI, I am doing a lot with the FBI, I am doing a lot with the Justice Department, lot of their Vietnam military cases they come to me……..

 

Fred Rice: They go to St. Louis?

 

Burkett: No, no…I show them how to do that, they can get it directly obviously, I mean if I get a case, an FBI case, I don’t do the leg work at that point, I take the FBI and then I walked in through, okay what we need to get down to the morning reports, here whatever we get that, you need to witness reports, here’s where you get that, I personally go after it, it is just a blank standard sentence, I have got the blank form letter now, but it just says under the Freedom of Information Act, please give me the releasable information in the military record of the full name, of course all their data bank has got first name, middle initial, last name, branch of service, and then here is the hard part, typically you have to have the Social Security Number or the service number, but I have got a network now that tends to make that much easier because there are data banks out there, these private detectives have them and – You want to be afraid of Big Brother? -- Worry about the network -- the CIA ought to call them before they call an agent. In my county and in Texas, you can go to the county seat and anything on that individual in the computer and like if he’s got a divorce in there, his social security number is in there. If he has a voter record, typically he does not have to put social security number but probably 80% of the people do. A lot of times, I have may just know that he is from New Jersey and I know the prefixes for New Jersey and so, you know. I am not successful 100% of the time getting records, but I have now got what I would call the Network and you know, I am helping a lot of people and those people tend to help me.

 

Fred Rice: Quick comment to confirm that I was one of Professor Capp’s guest speakers at the University of California in Santa Barbara. I stood outside the door and my daughter got me invited there. She was a student there at that time, she said it is time to go in. I walked in and I damn near died. I looked up in this hall, a huge lecture hall, with 800 students in there, and not a one of them had a clue about anything about Vietnam and I went through a lot of the statistics that may have come from you. I think this was in 1991 that I spoke up there, about the time the Gulf War was there. My son was in the Gulf flying Cobras at that time and I give a lot of statistics about Vietnam. The kids’ jaws, in that audience, just dropped. They didn’t have a clue about anything correct about Vietnam, so you are absolutely right.

 

Burkett: I’ve had one or two episodes of students where they have decided to do a paper on Vietnam and their father may be a Vietnam veteran and they give the kid my book, sometime they even travel up the University of Texas, they come spend an afternoon with me, we go through a lot of stuff and when they go back, the professor gives them flack for information that they put in this paper, I mean it is a fight. They don’t want that stuff, that is not what they expect.

 

Question: First I would like you to commend that I wanted to meet you for a longtime ever since I read your book but my question is a little personal. I have been sitting here and thinking about everything you have done. Have you had any death threats?

 

Burkett: I have had a couple of very early on when I mentioned those guys in Texas that had felony conviction, they had a whole cadre of fellow felons they were running together most of them claiming to be veterans and I got a couple of threats, phone threats etc, but that was really before I had gone public. Once you tend to go public, you gather supporters and it gets harder for somebody to do something. Having said that, I gave a speech in Syracuse for a US Congressmen, they met me at the airport and two plain clothes deputies immediately kind of ushered me into a bulletproof car, took me to a hotel, put me in a secure room at the top, put a deputy in the lobby and said that they had a phoned-in death threat, I gave that talk in a Kevlar vest and I had four deputies in the front table and they were like eight of us on a table like this but the two on either side of and were both armed plain clothes deputies, I mean nothing. There was a guy confronted me as we went out the door that scared me, he didn’t let him, because he jumped out from behind the door, it was a Vietnam veteran and they immediately kind of corralled him. He was mad because his buddy was the one that I got in federally convicted.

Just two days ago, Sam Johnson, who I know, had a long discussion with him and he brought that subject up and he said that he had heard threats against me, physical threats against me which did not cheer me up any but nobody personally has. If you go on the internet out there, there is a whole group of guys that tend to not to just attack me but attack anybody that saying the kind of things we are saying in here, so anyway.

 

Question: Keep up the good work.

 

Burkett: Thank you.

 

Max Friedman: What record groups were you looking at, at the Archives. You were looking at JAG, which was record group 125, what was it?

 

Burkett: JAG records, I work with them sparingly because only when I need a court martial record of some Vietnam veteran possibly and those tend to be couple of different, and, frankly, a lot of times now, when I need something I will just call one or two individuals that are kind of know where everything is, where would I find and they give me a phone number and somebody’s name, and then they put in a word for me and they will go get it. The JAG record of World War II things, what we ended up discovering initially, discovering there was a JAG summary right after the war, they did a summary of what JAG did during the war and it was a statistical summary of all the kinds of cases, the conviction rates, the ultimate sentences and all that, it was a pretty thick report and once I discovered that, I was able to go to another guy that I knew warehoused a lot of the World War II records and some of the JAG stuff and I asked him about these cases, and he said oh yeah, we have got them, I can give you every case of every guy who was executed and we pulled some and one of the interesting things about that is a large number of, way out of proportion, were Black, I mean which would make a story in itself, so.

 

R. J. Del Vecchio: On the statistics, I have heard for many years, the proper statistics who was not really singled out such as blacks, but I once heard that if you did a careful analysis the one group that actually was represented at a statistically higher level among casualties, were not only Caucasians but Catholic Caucasians?

 

Burkett: That is true.

 

Question: Kerry is not really all the way Catholic?

 

Burkett: He was Jewish until he became Catholic. Voted for it then he voted against it.

 

Steve Sherman: “Jug” sets a really good example for us because he is taking something [in which] there is absolutely a stone wall in front of him, a picture of who the Vietnam veteran is. Nobody cares. Nobody thinks it is important and he has made people see the importance of it and he is a model for all of us in what we do here.

 

Burkett: You know, one thing that has happened and I would hesitate to even mention it. I recently spoke to a couple of guys in Hollywood two years ago and I to self publishers there, I could not get anybody publish it and start an own publishing company and off we went and of course we won the Colby Award for the outstanding military book that we beat out Black Hawk Down. You know, every time I start saying one sentence, I think of another. By the way, in We Were Soldiers Once and Young, there was guy named Krisher who ultimately became President of the First Cav Association -- phony as hell. He was not in that battle and Galloway discovered it by the time the paperback was at the printer. A guy named Krisher, he is in there. He is dragging in casualties. He is getting ammo. He actually started the Ia Drang Valley Association and then became President of First Cav Association and I checked his military record, he had been in the unit but he was discharged four months before that battle. Which goes to show nobody can spot a phony, I mean you know, you may spot the obvious but there are thousands out there and some of them have been out there for ever. I just nailed a guy in Southern Indiana that had been the hero for 40 years up there, he was an Ace Marine Corps, shot down 19 Jap Zeroes, had two Navy Crosses and was President at World War II commemoration connected with the national memorial who was total bunk. The guy was an aircraft mechanic, that taught at a school I think in Alabama and never left the state.

 

Fred Rice: I don’t think this is going to happen this fast, but the same phenomenon is starting to a lesser degree with Veterans in the Gulf War and the current war. There was a picture in the local Legion newspaper, the state Legion newspaper up in New Hampshire, of a young man who had come back to visit his father, he had like 10 or 12 years in, he was a Spec Four. He had something like 20 ribbons and it showed a picture of him with fouragers all over the place and he had three marksman, expert and sharp shooter badges with three ladders under each one, now you known damn well, nobody in today’s Army had qualified for that many things that came out in the categories just right. That is the one reason I want to find out, how do you get somebody’s military records because I want to find him and if that kid is lying I want to expose him.

 

Burkett: I have got a website Stolen Valor.com and there is actually a page on it, you are sure to got to get a record. Again it is fairly easy, it is just going to take you to the long time.

I didn’t really finish the statement about Hollywood. They bought the book and two producers out there said, what are you going to do with this, I mean, I can image a documentary and the guy says, you can’t make any money out of documentary. Of course they did not know Michael Moore. They are going to make dramatic series out of the says, and I said how the hell you are going to do that, they say Well! It is going to be a modern version, Delta Force team at Fort McPhearson and a lot of Vietnam connections, the major’s father who was lost in Vietnam. They are going to have all these missions around the country and then the other setting is a news service in Atlanta with reporters chasing military stories and you know there is drama in each setting and they trip over each other and all of your phony stories are going to get fed into this script. I have seen it, it is a great thing, patriotic as hell, I mean you hear the Star Spangled Banner and everything else. They go out and shop that. The powers that be in Hollywood say, hey, dramatic series, you know, we going reality and the only dramatic series are extension of already successful dramatic series, they have come back now and they almost finished developing a military most wanted but it is an exposÚ of these phonies in the same way that had military most wanted goes after people and of course we do things like the Brian Dennehy’s and all these cases that I mentioned except that it would be developed on the air and there would be little bit part of history why does it matter, what is the Navy Cross and why is this SOB running for public office claiming he has them.

 

Tim Loperis?: One thing, I just wondering if you could comment on one thing that struck me. You mentioned that actually that the white population had disproportionately suffered the casualties in Vietnam. I just was struck by a local paper in St. Louis that did a study of the casualties in the current War on Terror that though the United States is what 75 to 76% urban, two-thirds of the deaths have been in small town USA, was that also true in the Vietnam war and another wars?

 

Burkett: Well a little bit and it was hard, in one of the things that there was study done by MIT with some military types and what they discovered is that 26% of the casualties came from the upper third, 30% came from the lower third and the rest came from the middle class, the middle third, so again, and we all know, a lot of people I know, one of the incentives for me, I knew I was going to go but it was a great additional incentive, the fact that I had the GI bill, my father was military, he didn’t have a bunch of money and keep sending me to school forever, so there was an economic incentive to do this. One of things when I talked to lot of people that are in manpower, it was a tendency you know, blacks have a harder time because of their educational level tends to be lower, their health aspects tend to be lower, they tend to go into acquire a skill which means if they are not going to be wild -- Learning how to fire machine gun is not going to help them but if they learn to drive a bulldozer or become an electrician, etc, -- so they tend to not be as heavily represented in combat. The white guys tend to have generational combat veterans in their background and they kind of go on the line of what father did, grandfather did, that type of thing and if you look at the elite units, there is a disproportionate number of whites in the Green Berets, SEALS, and that type of thing.

 

Steve Sherman: Pardon me for introducing politics into here, but when you talk about urban versus rural areas, it is my impression that the Party out of power right now has a thing about not sending their kids to be in uniform and you are more likely to find somebody from the so called Red States in uniform and among the casualties figures you are likely to find there a scion of the Democratic Party?

 

Burkett: The other thing is rural areas tend to be farm communities too and it is tougher to get a job in those areas. I mean you got some guy who’s got three sons and I am not going to take over Dad’s farm and it is a way to get out of the town, get an education, get the GI bill and you got more opportunities in the cities and you have . . .

 

Audience: Are you still a stockbroker?

 

Burkett: Yes. Actually I took a leave of absence because I taking a lot of static due to a lot of this outside activity, so we are in a kind of a neutrality between the wars, I guess is the best way to phrase it.

 

Mike Benge: Correct me on part of this, because I don’t quite remember all it, except one of the Iraq POW’s who got released and then he came home and I think it was his stepfather that was on TV with him and he claimed to be a Vietnam POW and he was exposed but he was not a POW, am I right on that?

 

Burkett: I had nothing to do with that. I will tell you one of the cases that I was peripherally involved in was this Navy SEAL, who had touted his whole war record, to his two sons forever, and they were going to follow in Dad’s footsteps. They are now on active duty, they are now both Navy SEALs. Dad never stepped foot in Navy SEALs. Anyway thank you.

[Applause]

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