Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War

From Vietnam to Iraq

Steve Sherman: . . . stayed longer than we did, who followed us or came after us, think about Vietnam in relation to their own service and the conditions that they encountered in their service with the enemy that they met, with the populations that they dealt with and with the strategies and tactics that they had to adapt to in their military careers, and our first speaker tonight is Col. Keith Dickson and I am going to be a little premature because I am expecting him to call in about five minutes and I want to give you a little background information. Col. Dickson teaches at the Joint Forces Staff College at the National Defense University. He had a number of interesting assignments including his appointment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a combat historian for SOCOM, USSOCOM. Prior to that, he spent 1985 to 1996 as an intelligence officer seconded to the CIA and prior to that he was the Commandant of Cadets at VMI and also Assistant Professor of History there at VMI. He has a very extensive list of publications and what his topic tonight is going to be is how a few great officers perceive Vietnam and how it affects their approach to what they are learning and what they are doing and we will be spending some time while we wait for his telephone call to come in.


Audience: Did he serve in Vietnam too?


Steve Sherman: No, he is a young sprout here, who went to an Infantry Officer Basic Course in 1978, PSYOP course in 84, Special Forces Officers Q course in 85, Infantry Advance Course in 86, Command and General Staff College in 88 and Joint Staff Officers Course in 2000. So he has hit all the high points at the schools, had all the fun. I asked him in a phone conversation we had because he was confining this to the field grade officers. I said that it was my impression that the general officers, particularly those who had had service in Vietnam, wanted no lessons from Vietnam and that the junior officers or actually the junior enlisted men were eating up everything they could find about Vietnam, compiling their own lessons learned and tips of the trade that they pulled out of Vietnam and adapted for their own purposes in there and I didn’t really have that much dealing with the field grades, but I have, as I said, I have a lot of calls from junior SF people who want to buy some of the books that I produce in the hopes that they are going to find some more lessons, willing to apply, because they are essentially re-inventing the wheel again after many years of having Vietnam in the dungeon of history, and the general officers for the most part said, “hey, we were there, we weren’t able to learn anything good about it and we are not going to even think about it. This is a whole new ball game for us.” So the field grades are the ones who are serving in the middle.


Mike Benge: [INAUDIBLE]. I don’t know the title of the book. Al Santoni wrote a book called “Leading The Way” and it was basically looking at, I think, field grade officers and probably others and what was carried over in the military and how it applied to the first war, the Iraq War.


Steve Sherman: Well, we will have to include that on our bibliography for this page.


Audience: Is that your observation or his?


Steve Sherman: That was my observation because I was so curious because he had essentially limited himself in his proposal to talking about the field grades and I said, “well, now what about the enlisted men and what about the others?” He said, “Well, I am teaching field grades, I am really good at that right now.” What he is talking about is what the field grades that he is teaching are wanting to know from him and saying what my perceptions are based on what SF enlisted men are asking me for; it may not be very scientific.


Audience: Today’s general officers don’t want to know …..


Steve Sherman: Well, the general officers of say, five years ago, all right. Some of these general officers today were getting a little bit beyond, I mean, and General Lambert just retired and he was younger than SF, younger than Vietnam rather, and he has retired with two stars, I believe.


Audience: [INAUDIBLE] [Re General Shinseki]


Steve Sherman: Well, you should have done something about it. You should have done something while you had the opportunity.


Audience: INAUDIBLE.


Steve Sherman: Well, give him a hat to wear, so he didn’t feel jealous of everybody else and also give him some kind of amour plated vehicle to drive around with rubber tires.


Kevin O’Brien [?]: INAUDIBLE _____ is an inspiration as a former SF officer, I think he was fired INAUDIBLE .


Steve Sherman: Well, while we are waiting here, I think we should introduce him and get a comment from Kevin O’Brien.


Kevin O’Brien: I am Kevin O’Brien, I am Sergeant First Class on the tail end of a career in the army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. I spent years in each. My most recent overseas deployment was in 2002-2003 to Afghanistan with the 20th Special Forces Group and my entire career was based upon the inspiration that I received and mentoring that I got from Special Forces soldiers.


Steve Sherman: We will come back to you later. Keith, are you there? Keith?


Keith Dickson: Yeah, how are you doing Steve?


Steve Sherman: Very good. Sometimes this technology works.


Keith Dickson: Glad to know it.

Steve Sherman: All right. I have given an introduction to you. You will have to believe me and go with what I gave.


Keith Dickson: I trust you.


Steve Sherman: And I have your slide titled the “Insurgents” on the screen. One of the faults of the telephone at our level of technology is you can't see what is going on at this end, so you will still have to trust me on that.


Keith Dickson: All right. I will continue talking no matter what’s up on the screen.


Steve Sherman: So if you want me to change the screen, you tell me to do so and meanwhile why don’t you go ahead with your presentation.


Keith Dickson: All right. Thank you very much. Good evening everyone. Thank you for standing by there and helping me take this presentation not in person; I appreciate the invitation from Steve Sherman to do this and I am proud to share the stage with General Bowra and I admire him a great deal.


Steve Sherman: Well, he is not here, so…..his admiration is still …


Keith Dickson: I still admire whether he is there or not.


Steve Sherman: Well, let me interject one thing over here.


Keith Dickson: Okay.


Steve Sherman: We had a large fight with the sound system a few minutes ago and that’s why I am not messing around with the guys, put up with it. All right. Go ahead Keith.


Keith Dickson: Okay. All right. Well, the purpose of my presentation tonight is to talk about the way the Vietnam War has played in the mind of the military, both those who experienced the war, those who were in service during the war but did not participate in the war and of course those who have served subsequent to Vietnam. But what I found interesting in this comparison between the current situation we find ourselves in Iraq and the situation in Vietnam is that there are currents of similarities and there are ideas floating around within the military community, but those things have not coalesced completely. What I have done here with the slide presentation is to lay out some historical background on what insurgency that we recall, the Vietnam generation recalls and military professionals recall. Special Forces were taught these ideas about insurgency and the classic Maoist insurgency, these were the ideas that were ingrained in the American military during the Vietnam period and what I would like to do is just compare that for you by showing you some slides from an actual US Army Training and Doctrine Command briefing that touches upon some of these things, but which you will note is I think is the inchoate understanding of what insurgency is, what it is about, what it means, but what you see are the ghosts of the past rising to frighten us one more time, but looking at this from a perspective also as a professional who spent his life dealing with this as an Army Special Forces officer, but also as an academic who studied military strategy and operations for the past 15-20 years. You could see some major differences that I don’t think the military community as a whole has yet come to an understanding and so what you have here is a representation of how these events and how these ideas have started to mix together within the current military community. I think it reflects the thinking of not just prior to TRADOC, but I think it comes from the field, that it comes from the field grades as well as junior officers and senior enlisted who were in Iraq and were reporting back up the chain about what their experiences had been and what they think, and so you see some collating at the TRADOC level to try to provide some understanding. So what I would like to do is go through some basic outlines of what the insurgency in Vietnam really looked like and we will compare it with how this word and this concept is being batted about today in current military circles. Next slide please.


What you have here is an overview of what we are talking about -- insurgency. You have the North Vietnamese attempting to overcome the American-sponsored South Vietnamese government using as it says here, one combined strategy. Next slide please. There is a picture of Ho Chi Minh. Notice that he is a man who is clearly tied to western ideas, the idea of the western concept of Nationalism or the western idea of Communism. He was dedicated to those ideas and saw that the war that he was fighting not only against the Japanese and the French, but also against the Americans, in terms of ideas that came from the West that he adapted and used for his own purposes. So, the insurgent leadership, the political leadership is western trend and he used things from a modified western perspective. Next slide please.


Then we have the military side of this strategy, Vo Nguyen Giap, and again he is the military arm who translates political ideas from Ho Chi Minh to into a strategic context and certainly tremendous mind in an individual who clearly understood the relationship between strategy, politics and operation. Next slide please.


So what we see in this slide is that the political organization in Republic of Vietnam and North Vietnamese government the supporting connected to the PVN, the insurgency in the South. Next slide please.


I think you have another example of how the organization, the political side, the left hand column, you see all the way down to the soul of it, working with guerillas in South Vietnam, tied, connected, guided, supported, all the way up to the national government in North Vietnam. And on the right hand side, you have the military arm, the PLA, working hand-in-hand with political cadre, the political leadership. And so you have this very tight connection that is directed from above, but tightly connected in both support and operation from the political faction. Next slide please.


In this picture, you have the training of guerillas, the concept of training, but doesn’t change. It covers almost half a century. The guerillas are not only ideological warriors, but they are capable of long-term fighters who are willing to continue the struggle for liberation as long as it takes. Next slide.


What you see here is the connection between the political struggle and the armed conflict. The conflict of peoples at war that everyone is a fighter, everyone is involved in providing support to the war effort. So the political message and the military operations are linked together, but again coordinated effort against the enemy. Next slide please.


Now, notice the types of combat on this slide. First stage, an insurgency, at least what it was defined by modified Maoist approach. Notice the types of attacks, the program of violence, rage, assassination, kidnapping, terror; I will say that again, terror. Mao used it often and those who followed Mao’s principles all the way to the Shining Path and even the current insurgency in Nepal, which follows Maoist guidelines for insurgency, all involved the use of the terror to further political goals. These types of actions are meant to separate the peasants, the people, from the government. Next slide please.


In the next slide you see when the insurgency moves out of this phase into another phase, you see more of a sophisticated guerilla operation, much more organized, much more wide spread and intended to throw the enemy off balance, keep it off balance, eliminate the enemy’s ability to control the population and then turn people through coercion, through ideology, whatever works back to the guerilla. Next slide please.


And then we see the combined effort of not only conducting guerilla operations, but also moving to independent fighting units and you notice on both those slides that the other force involved is North Vietnamese regulars who conduct battles whenever they choose in order to tie down American and South Vietnamese forces while the guerillas continue their activity. Next slide please.


And then finally what we get to is the . . . I am sorry, would you go to the next slide please, which shows you essentially a war mobility where the insurgents are now, the guerilla force is now, almost either paramilitary or a conventional force that links with the NVA regular force and they become strong enough and capable enough to overwhelm the enemy completely, and essentially this model, what we just spoke through is what happened in Vietnam. And it was a situation that we did not completely understand I would argue. Next slide please.


Notice that the focus is on the people in this slide. It is a political struggle that works to separate the people from the target government, from the enemy government. It is peasant based and it is focused on pulling the people away in order to gain control; that’s the most important step in a Maoist type insurgency. Next slide please.


The last slide here ties those two ideas together that I emphasized before here; the political side and military side using guerilla forces as well as regular forces, all directed, many different approaches towards the enemy, so the enemy faces not only regular forces, they face guerilla forces, they face political forces, the political cadres, and so it battles, it weakens and eventually defeats the enemy along with the insurgency, the guerilla war maneuver and in whatever kind it takes. Next slide please.


But the key to success here is not really this model. It is the outside support that prevented the United States and its allies from taking the war to [North] Vietnam because of the support of the Chinese, the Soviet Union, both the allies was essentially off limits and because we had larger issues of Cold War, North Vietnam could never be attacked and eliminated as a threat because of the danger represented by the larger issues of the cold war, the nuclear arsenal that the three nations had and so giving sanctuary, giving supplies and aid from the Soviet Union and the Communist China, the United States essentially put itself into a strategic defensive and a war of attrition which fell directly into the kind of strategy that this kind of insurgency wants to have. Any force that this fighting on the strategic defensive and looking for a war of attrition is going to lose given the model that Ho Chi Minh and Giap established for their insurgency. Next slide please.


I actually look at these concepts, centers of gravity, what are the major points of failure where if you attack them, the enemy cannot react and you gain an advantage over him. Outside support obviously, I just talked about that. Nationalism supported the people. There was never a doubt that the strength of the Vietnamese nationalists in the belief in freedom and independence was sustainable over the long haul and worth every sacrifice the people could give. The political and military strategy was deeply harmonized work and never ever changed without a sync and the idea that the war would continue till it was successful no matter what the cost, which is something that the tied all those things together; the cause, the insurgency and the war in Vietnam to come to a victorious conclusion for North Vietnam. This is the basis for what we as the military have discovered and learned and have inculcated over the years about the war in Vietnam per month. When we talk about insurgency, we talk about guerilla warfare. These are the kinds of things that we looked at and we study and obviously have come to an understanding of. So institutionally, I think, when the US military thinks about insurgency, they tend to think about this kind of operation because obviously it was successful in United States bore the brunt of this for decades. So what we look at now, the concepts of warfare that we find facing an enemy that is Islam. Next slide please.


Now, what you will see here, I hope, looking at this, you get a radically different view of warfare from the Vietnamese Services. It is more personal, it is less organized and there is no strategic direction.


Steve Sherman: Let’s check our bearings over here.


Keith Dickson: Okay.


Steve Sherman: I am on a slide that has two headings, ‘Armed Dau Tranh’ and ‘political Dau Tranh’ and all the sub elements thereto.


Keith Dickson: Okay, go ahead and push forward to next slide. Tell me what it says.


Steve Sherman: ‘The insurgents’ outside support.’


Keith Dickson: Okay, I talked about that. Hit the next one.


Steve Sherman: Centers of gravity and now we are in Islam.


Keith Dickson: Okay. I talked to you about that one. Okay, hit the next one.


Steve Sherman: Elements of warfare according to Islam.


Keith Dickson: Okay, there you got, okay. This is different. I will tell you what Steve; go back to the previous slide.


Steve Sherman: Centers of gravity.


Keith Dickson: Yes, centers of gravity, fine. The idea, notice military political strategy, the idea of nationalism, needs support of the people to sacrifice whatever was necessary for freedom and independence and outside support. Two super powers providing aid and assistance to the North Vietnam. Now, let’s compare that with an enemy now, an Islamic enemy, that we are facing today. Next slide please. That one should say ‘elements of warfare according to Islam.’


Steve Sherman: Yes.


Keith Dickson: All right. Now, let me repeat what I said now. Again, radically different from what we saw in Vietnam in our definition of insurgency and how insurgency operated. No excuse, no connection to a strategic goal. This warfare is based on personal revenge or personal enhancement, either reputation or such. It is less organized and this idea that victory comes not through dedication, not through belief and ideology necessarily, not through organization, not through strategy, but through supernatural means. Next slide.


The idea of war as a perpetual condition, that war is a religious obligation, that benefits of warfare are to the warrior, to his personal prestige, to his betterment, to his tribe’s improvement, but not necessarily as we see in Vietnam in this larger idea of the people or the nation. Next slide please.


Now, we tie this to Al-Qaida. The idea, again, ties to these ideas of Islamic warfare, traditional Islamic warfare. Again, political aims are not tied to strategy, if fact it teaches aren’t either political aims nor . . . . You still there?


Steven Sherman: Yes.


Keith Dickson: Okay. There seem to be need of political means or strategic means to an end here and then it is very opportunistic, it tends to be, it tends to attract kinds of people and it seeks a place to operate from. But it does not matter where as long as it is a safe haven. It could be Sudan, it could be Afghanistan, it could be Saudi Arabia, it could be Iraq, it could be any place; it does not matter as long as it is the same haven from which to operate and so it is opportunistic and progress oriented. It is centered on victory for a very ill defined concept [inaudible] and in the last point is the that they are planning doctrine in much strategy of just the need to continue because if they don’t show themselves, they don’t display capability then they have the danger of fading away. Next slide please.


So, the words that we tie to the people and if we are to label them insurgents and I use that term and I put the qualifier “new” insurgents because certainly I think you can see that from the model that we saw from Vietnam that we are not talking the same thing, but because we put a label on it, again, I am talking about the military community and perhaps politicians too, we have labeled them this and so the next point of the next two slides is to show you how these Islamic insurgents, the Islamic enemy, is operating. It will tend to be entrepreneurial, very adaptive and individual initiative seems to be rewarded. Whoever can think of the most effective method to hurt the enemy, it is adapted, it is experimented with and if it works, send them out to see what happens. If it fails, it fails. If it works, then great! So there is a constant effort at learning, testing, trying, experimenting, feeling, and persistence as we see in the example of the World Trade Center. We can't blow it up with a truck bomb, then we will find something else to blow it up with. Who has got an idea? Will it work? How do we make it happen? And then continue to go on and on and on. So it is very very entrepreneurial like that, this insurgency, well, if you want to call it that. Next slide.


The point, I think it is extremely important here, the idea of the way the West looks at strategy. In Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap, we had equals there, strategically, political equals and we could at least look at strategy and strategic models in the same way. But here, the people that we are leading with now, the enemy we are facing does not look at all like those western strategic models that we are so comfortable with. The idea of God playing a role, God directing fate, God directing the outcome, that success brings reward, success brings prestige, individuals who are successful therefore rise in the organization and are considered successful and those who die are considered to be, of course, the rewarded martyrs. So it is, what we see out of here is this personal individual focus, far away from the organized strategic, clearly defined, linear approach to strategy that we saw in our enemy is Vietnam, and we tend to be to all our enemies, and that is the way we think, that is the way we plan, that is the way we have organized ourselves always and that is the essence of the modern military, if you will, is this belief and adherence to strategic models, linear thinking, rationalism, structure of organization and what we are dealing with, that is that we see here, are new form of an enemy who does not yield any of those concepts. And so, therefore, we have trouble labeling them. We have trouble defining them, we got this trouble understanding them, and so, therefore, what we have done I think is started to call them insurgents because we can't think of anything else to call them. Next slide please.


Now, this is a slide that I wanted to use as an example; I have got several of them here. This is a briefing from United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. And the information of the slide is not as important I think as kind of what it says. I mean, I don’t know the things that emerge from these slides. Notice that in the first bold face at the top of the slide. What we see unfolding are the basic tenets strategy, of a strategy to end the US-led occupation in Iraq. Focus on the Baathists, the former Baathist members who organized perhaps some type of resistance to America. But what we see here is that, you can see from TRADOC, you can see the American mindset coming to bear here; what is and what do we have. Well, we are dealing with an enemy who has a strategy; all enemies must have a strategy. So therefore, this is their strategy and from what we see in these previous slides, I think perhaps we may have missed the boat there. The idea too is that the battle for Iraq boils down to a battle of wills, who will hold out the longest? Again, I think you can hear the echoes of Vietnam here warning us the enemy has got to have a strategy because we fought an enemy before who has had a strategy. It is a battle of wills, just like it used to be and whoever is going to hold on longest, the biggest dog holding on and who bites the longest is going to win. Again, going back to the idea that there is a protracted war from the past. Next slide.


If you look here, the next slide talks about that this is based on themes of faith and nationalism. Again, wonder how do we look at Vietnam, it’s nationalism. What role does nationalism play here? We fought enemies, insurgency, a guerilla who was down in his heart a true nationalist. So, again, in attempting to define who the enemy is we tend to reach back I think and you see these terms starting to pop up in these briefings because I think many professionals are just seeking ties, this looks familiar, it smells familiar. So what did we have in the past and what ideas carry over or what looks familiar? And so you see these ideas about nationalism, battle of wills, strategy, those kinds of things were starting to conform. Next slide please.


Now you will notice here, intimidate people. Of course, this is conveniently reminiscent of the first phase of guerilla operations that may now be in the strategy in Vietnam; terror, intimidation, kidnapping. All the things that we saw in the first stage of a Maoist-type insurgency seen again in Iraq. Well, if we are seeing that then maybe what we have is a real insurgency. Therefore, the people fighting it must be -- insurgents. Next slide please.


I think this is the most revealing of all. This is the American military sphere put on a slide. This is Vietnam redux. Highlight US casualties, use rhetoric to seize the moral high ground, attack the basis for the war before the world press, exploit western information vulnerability, centerpiece a classic picture of Johnson listening to the son-in-law talk about his group. That of course, the two _____ that stretch as far as the eye can see an army and then that idea that see the little boy, the idea of the war that never ended echoes. Of course, all from Vietnam, all images, very very powerful images would be enough, that the war was never ended. It will go on forever, it will establish, timeless to the very limits, and if the enemy can do that, then what we are going to have is, that is the implication from here. Now I see this is extremely revealing of the American military sphere that this is what the enemy can do to us, that we are vulnerable to this kind of approach and that the enemy is growing and capable and has this ability. They will use it and what will happen is the inevitable will go on and the images that they were so seared in the Vietnam generations’ mind of these three representative pictures will all come to pass again. Next slide please.


What we see here is an attempt to model what the enemy looks like. What you see here is, again, an attempt to define this and examine this and understand it in terms of a structure that was very similar to the structure that you saw in the previous slide, almost back in the insurgency, political military organization where you had a liberation cell of village association, a district committee, you know, all supported by a central political military control. This diagram tends to replicate that, tends to talk about the same kind of political military structure that may be formed or may be in the process of being formed to resist the coalition in Iraq. But, again, the enemy, who are they? Are they insurgents? Are they guerillas? Do they have political military direction? Are they centrally organized? What are they? How do we understand? And the problem is that these are mostly just ideas laid down. There are no definitive pictures in the brochures. Next slide please.


What we see here is again some representations of how the enemy fights, fights perhaps in a cellular structure, but what you see here is its intensity, very destroying. Again, going back to some of the ideas that were laid out before, the Islamic fighters tend to reflect this. Next slide please.


What I will argue is what we face is not the classic insurgency of Mao, Giap, Ho Chi Minh. Something that is quite different, what I consider post moderate kind of insurgency that it is far less focused on political military strategic objectives, but it is more focused on affecting or shaping what is not in a target population through a variety of methods. And so, what we see here in the sample TRADOC slides, I think it struggles to understand first of all the nature of VN. Second of all, the goal of VN. Third, what structures from the past tend to look like what we see now going on in Iraq and what we have done is, we have reached back to those models from the sixties and we are trying to put words and we are trying to put structures I think to an insurgency that is not….if it is an insurgency, it is something completely different. And so the concept I think of a new concept of insurgency, counter insurgency to effect or counter effect to what is know through a variety of different methods. It is where we should be heading I think, thinking about insurgency rather than relying on an old model. Next slide please.


This is my last slide, and I have titled it ‘relearning old lessons.’ The first one is the lesson that saw in Vietnam, beginning with the Marines, landing at Da Nang all the way to the helicopter lifting off, from the embassy roof. We came as liberators, we came as defenders of freedom, we came to support the people of South Vietnam to form their own democratic institution, to actually live without threat of violence, touch an Asian from a communist dominated government in the North and the communist insurgency within their country, and we found ourselves to be more and more acting like occupiers and the shock of discovery that you move away from liberation, you move away from this idea of liberating and being popular and being supportive and people standing in the streets cheering you to what have you done for me lately and why are you here and we are tired of looking at you. The same kind of thinks paralleled the experience that we are finding in Iraq, now that we had in Vietnam. Vietnam is and the second point, it is a strategic parallel for both the enemy and the United States, as I pointed out in that revealing slide, Americans are and certainly American military is very fearful that this will turn out to be another Vietnam. Whether the model holds or not, which I would argue doesn’t, still if it even looks, you know, if out of a 100 points, 2 or 3 of them have parallels to Vietnam, then the heavy lean is toward, well, it must be like Vietnam and, therefore, we will find ourselves in a Vietnam-like situation. I don’t think the enemy has missed that either. I don’t think the enemy understand Vietnam or understands the American experience in Vietnam, but certainly understands America’s sensitivities to certain images and certain ideas and they struggle to affect what is known, pulls not only America, but I think the West towards those images back to both the Vietnam images and intentionally or not, I think that is what the enemy understands, that the United States will begin to see those ghosts whether the enemy presents them or not, that they become those things that cause us as not only as a society but as an institution, military institution, to pause, to take two steps back and wonder, are we going down the same path that we did before. Are the idea of insurgency and terrorism going hand in hand? I think this, perhaps, is one thing that we see tie back to the old style of insurgency in Vietnam and today is that terrorism is part of insurgency, terrorism can be part of insurgency, terrorism is a very powerful tool in insurgency. You may or may not have an insurgency, you have terrorism. You may have an insurgency and not have terrorism, but it is this connection I think that leads people, especially military to think in terms of insurgency when you see these kinds of things happen. I think [inaudible] for the ideology clearly the Vietnamese were willing to sacrifice for an ideology, nationalism, communism, freedom, independence, things that in their mind all worthy of sacrifice. Ideology here that we see in our enemy is it is far broader and quite different, and the risk does not seem to be a central ideology. I don’t think you could even point to religion necessarily as the focusing ideology, it is the background, but it is not what causes people to do what they do. Outside support, two super powers versus what? Iraq. Two super powers of Vietnam and some freelancers of Chechnya and Syria and other places, Saudi Arabia, coming in to try their luck. Money support in terms of a broad variety of individuals, which is sympathetic, but there is no organized state that supports its activity, and certainly not openly or willingly supporting this resistance in Iraq that we saw supporting, the level of resistance supporting in North Vietnam. In Linebacker, American bombers would hit North Vietnamese targets and watch Soviet ships going to Haiphong Harbor, unloading replacement equipment even as they were bombing targets. I mean those kinds of things have happened certainly, the parallels have struck there, that is what happened in Iraq. Tactical lessons from Vietnam, we learned to bloody experience as unfortunate. The Americans in Vietnam learned about convoy operations bloodily and painfully just as the French learned bloodily and painfully, learned about mines, learned about booby traps, learned about security in villages and MSRs may hit the supply route. How you protect convoys; all those things, those lessons that American GIs learned in Vietnam that they learned, inherited in some ways from the French or we learned from the French, but only after taking steady losses. Same things happened. The idea of protecting a convoy or convoy security was or training to protect the convoy or the convoy security was unheard of, un-thought of except perhaps for protection against air attack. Training for those kinds of things disappeared from the military because there was no threat. So now, without this kind of threat, you have Vietnam veterans all over America standing up saying, ‘don’t you guys understand what you are up against? Let me show you how you sandbag a truck.’ you know, let me show you how to built a wall from extra PSP on the side of your deuce and a half so you know, they are not getting this kind of stuff. I mean those ideas, those processes, that experience and that has been lost in the American military, and so now what you have are a lot of smart kids adapting but only after having lost their buddies to IED’s and ambushes and mines and things like that, the same way that we suffered and took many causalities, but eventually learned the lesson and got protected. So the experience that the younger soldiers are finding day by day in Iraq are very similar to the kinds of things that the GIs in Vietnam certainly remember and recall and dealt and the ability of the American soldier to adapt to the situations that he finds himself has not changed over generation of fighting. A level of respect for the enemy. I would say that though we fought the Vietnamese, we stood and fought them with everything we had, we gained a grudging respect for the professionalism and dedication of certainly the NVA and to a lesser extent to the Viet Cong. I think Giap in professional military circles certainly is respected, if grudgingly admired for his keen insight into strategy and his application of the strategy to military operation. But there is no respect; there is no respect for Islam and reports out of Iraq clearly indicate that Americans have absolutely no respect for the enemy. The enemy has, does not deserve respect as a combatant or as a professional by any means and it is that partially because of circumstances that arrived via 9/11, but now in the situation that we find ourselves in Iraq, I certainly think that no one in the American military respects the enemy, just fighting and killing right now and does not believe that the enemy deserves respect. And then last but not least, the irreplaceable role of Special Forces. Call it what you will, call it insurgency, call it irregular warfare, call it whatever you will, but the skills that Special Forces, Army Special Forces that was created for, like this kind of warfare, like these kinds of battles to train contingents of paramilitary forces and to conduct unconventional warfare of Vietnam all the way up to now, it is an irreplaceable skill that we cannot afford, we as American soldiers cannot afford to lose sight of and continue to employ those extraordinarily capable men to greatest extent possible to limiting their capability. And that is, I think, the kind of things that the American military and I would argue perhaps that the American population today is struggling with this. In summary, these tend in some ways to remind us of Vietnam. The images come back to us, those of our troops who experienced that, those images are unforgettable and those images then tend to translate themselves to connections to the past that they had experienced in Vietnam. And I think you will find that the connection between certainly the Vietnam generation, between senior leaders, senior field grades. But what you find is very little of that conception in the younger generation. What they are looking for is what can I use, what happened in the past that these things work; I wasn’t trained to deal with these kinds of things, where do we go to learn these lessons, where do we go to find out about what happened in the past; didn’t this happen in Vietnam or didn’t we do something like this before, and if so, how do we deal with this? There is a great effort, great push to get that information back out in the field, to get the information about insurgency, to get the information about guerilla operation, get information about convoy security and patrolling and mines and booby traps and all those kind of things that almost every soldier showed up in Vietnam during his tour of duty got a booklet that talked about here is what to avoid, here is what the enemy looks like, here is how he operates. All those lessons were brought to the soldiers when they came into the country and the American military is now working to take some of those ideas and try to bring them back because in our current doctrine and current lessons learned in our current operational experience, none of these really holds very much. It is just not there, we haven’t done it, and if we have done it, it has been on just a low scale, a small scale that it really does not apply to larger our operation. So you have got to go back to Vietnam to pull those lessons back and I think institutionally the military is rediscovering the things that it had forgotten and willfully dropped after defeat in Vietnam and moved towards the plains of Europe and fighting the conventional war against the Soviets, but now we are rediscovering all those things. And these lessons are not new here, they are just being relearned and we still have to identify the enemy. Who is he? How long is that enemy capable of fighting and what is the enemy fighting for and how is the structure organized and how do we deal with it. So, I hope what I have done in this presentation provides you with some things to think about not only from a historical perspective but I think from a current perspective as to how military as an institution is trying to come to grips with only the finding but also understanding the enemy and I think at times it wrongfully tries to make connections to Vietnam and the connections it does make tend to be rather weak, but the problem is it is bringing those memories back and bringing those ideas back, bring with them the taint of defeat, the taint of an unwinnable war, the taint of a struggle that would go on and on and on and sap our will and bring us down the same path that it happened before, and I think that is part of the danger is not being able to step away from the ideas and apply them in a way that helps us understand our current situation and not try to view it as the lesson of the past. With that, I thank you very much.


Steve Sherman: All right. Keith, don’t disappear on us here.


Keith Dickson: Okay.


Steve Sherman: I prefaced your remarks by your remarks by saying, I really didn’t want to get into arguments about Iraq because we have got so many things about Vietnam that we haven’t resolved among ourselves. Not really surprised to see the Generals fighting the last war all over again. But one of the things I think we will be arguing about in Session 7 tomorrow is the some of the strategic decisions such as some argue that we didn’t properly understand the various levels of struggle and the tactics and strategy of the Communists. Other people might argue that when we follow and well they say that by not understanding we were arrogant, but by trying to understand it, we were responding to their strategies and we could only have a strategy in response. We weren’t operating to our strengths. If we recognize what our strengths were at the time and just go ahead and use those strengths and override whatever strategies are put towards us, then we are right far more affective in that particular mode. I certainly think that there are tactical lessons that the junior level people in Iraq might gather from Vietnam. But strategically, from my perspective, and I will open this up to the audience to comment on, I think that we can't merely react to what happens to us, we have to have a policy to override whatever is out there. The other lesson we certainly didn’t learn from Vietnam is the most important element was how we psychologically conditioned the battlefield and we are not allowed to do this presumably as a military agency to follow T. E. Lawrence’s guidelines. We don’t run the Press here in the United States and we don’t even try very hard to influence the Press here in the United States, but frankly that is a far more of an enemy to the troops that are in Iraq today and to a great extent the enemy to us in Vietnam than the other side was.


Keith Dickson: Well, I think you touched at two very important points. I think you are correct in that we did not understand the strategic point of view of Vietnam. I think we completely misapprehended the idea that the Vietnamese were fighting for freedom and they were willing to sacrifice everything for those ideals and, of course, as Americans we certainly understand that, I mean we understand the motivation for that approach because the ideals of freedom and independence, of course, are ingrained in us and what we never realized we were fighting an enemy who was willing to sacrifice as much as we would have been and we did sacrifice as much in the Revolutionary War to gaining freedom and independence. We were fighting a people who were willing to do that and we always thought it was tied so closely more to ideology than to this national ideal that we misunderstood the strategic direction. And it was right before our eyes, I mean this was nothing secret, you know, Ho Chi Minh certainly never made anything hidden to us; I mean, we just didn’t pay attention to it. We tended to look at it as rhetoric or propaganda and we simply walked by it and focused on other things.


Steve Sherman: But understanding the bully in the schoolyard really isn't as important as being able to just deck him and lay him out and go on.


Keith Dickson: And that is the other point, you know. I mean the example I gave of B52 bomber pilots were, you know. There two pilots watching Soviet ships unloading at Haiphong and you can't touch them, I mean that is a big problem. You couldn’t win a war with the enemy being rebuilt overnight after you blow them, you know, you knock them down.


Steve Sherman: Let me bring in another question or comment from the audience here.


Keith Dickson: Okay.


Max Friedman: Keith, can you hear me?


Steven Sherman: No. Both of you should be up right there.


Max Friedman: Now can you hear me?


Keith Dickson: I can hear you.


Max Friedman: Okay. Now I like your summary on relearning old lessons. You know, I am looking at this as a journalist who interviewed Viet Cong and North Vietnamese in South Vietnam, people who had been captured in Cambodia by the Communists and also the fact that my son fought in Iraq and I want to merge two of your thoughts and give you a couple examples of some problems I see that you are addressing here and the question is how far have you been able to succeed in getting other people to review these questions. You know, about the irreplaceable role of the Special Forces in tactical lessons of Vietnam being married to bloody experience. I had a friend who was in Vietnam and he gave me, I don’t know what, it is what they call one of these urban legends about an American GI or not, but it is very good. It says a big American soldier, about 6 foot 3 or 6 foot 4, 225-250 pounds who spoke Vietnamese and he would go out in the field with the conical hat and black pajamas and he would just walk around and he has AK47 with him and as he talked to people, if they were VC, he would open up and kill them. And he was very successful because they only saw the conical hat coming and so he basically stood up and by that time it was too late for them and eventually the army pulled him out because he said he was having so much fun killing the VC. Let us jump up to Afghanistan. The Special Forces were complaining that their operational leaders wanted them to look clean shaven and not feel native. Now you have air marshals here complaining that their superiors want them to dress in suits so that they could stand out for anybody who was looking for an air marshal. Then you have an FBI spokesman the other day saying about Sandy Berger, “Well, a lot of people inadvertly take out classified information from classified reading rooms,” as though it happens everyday. And I am looking at this, there is also book by Orrin DeForest and within the book (it is called Slow Burn: [The Rise and Bitter Fall of American Intelligence in Vietnam]) in which he criticized American Military Intelligence in Vietnam as not looking at it as the Japanese police used to do, which would be building up intelligence on a block by block, precienct by precienct map knowing who lived in an area, where. It took a lot of patience in order to do this, months and years, and also by using VC defectors to give information and to bring others in. And if we didn’t have the patience to do this kind of grassroots intelligence work. So we have a lot of things going on in Iraq today, some of which looks like we are adapting very well to situation. One is on the fly; something is not working, they try something else. The other is the going around looking for things that had worked in the past and then they are beginning to get some fairly good intelligence, even in Fallujah. What I see as a problem is that the upper commands are still either using Gulf War conventional warfare mentality, Vietnam conventional mentality or even World War II conventional mentality and you are dealing with an enemy who is much more fanatical than Viet Cong. I met Viet Cong who were veterans, North Vietnamese who quit after realizing that they were losing because they had a cause to fight for. When they saw that their own side couldn’t deliver and then our side was, they began to say – why am I fighting for something that cannot help the People. I see now in Iraq, especially for losing, lot of the people saying about the insurgents, all they are doing is killing us; they are not doing anything for us and that is why we were getting good strike intelligence on specific targets. So in your experience, do you see the upper echelon brass begin to realize that you have to throw a lot of these grand plans and get back to some real basics of psychological warfare and guerilla warfare in order to fight on this level and then translate it to the troops who I think are way ahead of the brass on this.


Keith Dickson: Let me give you two examples, in fact, personal examples, but I will give you counter examples to the perhaps urban legend about the guy in the conical hat. A friend of mine e-mailed me a copy of a report from one of his friends who was just finishing up his tour in Iraq and he said, one of the biggest frustrations for the soldiers over there is that the enemy sets up ambushes during the day knowing that we will travel to this intersection, you know, at 10 o’ clock the next morning. The troops say, “why can't we go out in a car in purdah, you know, we will dress like Iraqis and we will sit out in a car in the intersection and when those bastards come out to set up the IEDs and the mines and set up the ambush, we get out and kill them.” And, of course, that idea percolates up to the top and immediately it says, “No, absolutely stop this kind of talk. It is a violation of the rules of the warfare” and the troops are just scratching their heads say, “Okay, so you want me to drive through there and get my ass shot off because they are violating the rules of warfare, you want us to fight fair and the enemy won't fight there.” So, here we see, again, an interesting parallel. The second thing is I was in Afghanistan for a short period of time and the difference between when the regular army took over in Bagram for instance, the Air Base, all the SF guys were immediately told to get rid of their baseball caps, shave, put on a regular uniform and salute. And of course, everybody complied, but in the SF compound, of course, like the good old days SF compound is separate from the regulars. You know, you have relaxed, relaxed grooming standards and relaxed uniform standards, but don’t step out of the SF compound unless you are squared away because their sergeant major will come get you, and so, I mean some of those things I think haven’t changed and they do reflect the point that you have made is that perhaps the upper level command systems are not as adaptable in either innovating or willing to risk, to take risk because of the possible consequences, either from a career perspective perhaps, but I think maybe that is your point about the issue of psychological operations in psywar. But when the word gets out that Americans are dressing up like Arabs and shooting other Arabs in Oh gee, where, you know, we could kill the wrong people then, you know, what is this going to look like. I mean, they are extremely sensitive to the blow back of these kinds of things and I think willing to play it safe. It is more important perhaps than, as Steve said going out and hitting them hard and doing what is necessary. So I think at some levels you are seeing innovation, you are seeing great adaptations, but I think in the higher levels of command, both personal experiences, and anecdotal of things I have shared is that, you know, it is hard to get through that mentality and if you try to make things look normal, then you are always going to be surprised. If you adapt and are willing to work within that chaotic new organization, you know, it has got a post modern point of view, then, you know, it is tough the first, but in my opinion it is more effective, but that takes some very important and significant changes in the military mindset.


Steve Sherman: Keith, we have to got to get on to some other presentations here this evening. I want to thank you for sharing this with us.


Keith Dickson: My pleasure. Thank you very much for having me.


Steve Sherman: Okay. Bye.


Keith Dickson: Good night.




Steve Sherman: Here is now somebody. There was no draft in the Revolutionary War. _____ in the American Revolution and much of these were being branded as 11253 _____ kind of North Vietnam and shipped South and the model was more than North a united South. I am amazed the guy made such a grievous improper comparison; it blows my mind.


Dr. Timothy J. Lomperis You know, you sit over there and you have, I have the same thing. You know 11307 _____ guys. I disagree with every single thing he says up there. There was no comparison between what we did in Vietnam. We were in there to help keep down some people from invading them. In Iraq, we went into to kick out a regime. It was totally different. Unbelievable cold is not the same as the jungle and this was jungle. That guy was so far out there it was actually believable. I don’t believe that 11332 INAUDIBLE _____ but you shut him up for 30 seconds _____.


Charles Wiley (?): The thing I think that bothered me the most was when he said that we didn’t understand, that we misread Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnam as plan. Of course, we understood it. The South Vietnamese understood it too. I mean, of course, North Vietnam wanted liberation and freedom by their standards of the entire nation. South Vietnam wanted the same thing, by their standards. I don’t think for one minute that we misunderstood anything; we can beat this guy.


Dolf Droge: We made a great mistake when we failed to understand the Communist Party of Vietnam would only allow 6% of its population to be a member at a time, 6%. 94% were always the victims of the Party, 6% went in. If you destroy the 6%, the working, conscious, present 6%, you take a lot of the problems that we were talking about coming down the trail and finding your way into the South away. If you had a battleship that sat in the Gulf of Tonkin with top naval protection, underwater, over sea, over the sky, and you shelled the rail line from China everyday or every week and you destroyed it every week and it had to be built up every week and you did the same thing to the docks at Haiphong by having your submarine rise in front of the ships coming from the world and say, ‘I am sorry sir it is a bad day, they are going to shell the docks today. It is a bad day to unload your cargo, I would go elsewhere.’ If you cut those supplies and Sihanoukville as the other for 80% of all supplies for Viet Cong, they could get theory, but they couldn’t get help and the Lao Dong Party could not maintain its hold on the population of North Vietnam. If those docks, if those dikes had broken, those 14-foot high dikes had broken in any one combat nation, that government of North Vietnam would be on a raft, a series of rafts, communicating with each other by sign language. We never did this.


Audience: It was the 1964 presidential campaigns who got defeated for advocating this INAUDIBLE _____, move on for ….


Steve Sherman: I remember this, the joke that said that I was told that had I voted for Goldwater we would have wider war, I did, did we have a lighter war. If we broke dikes, Mike might have had a bit of a problem and I don’t know how good swimmer he is, but we are going tomorrow to talk about strategy, we are going to talk on Thursday about Iraq and Vietnam in relation to strategy in Iraq and I would like to spend a short bit of time catching some of the youngsters, a youngster we have here, and the fellow who served, saw some things that happened in the interval. So lets move this discussion on because I think we need to.


Kevin O’Brien: You want to take a break and I will put some slides up or do you just want to go?


Steve Sherman: You got slides to put up there?


Kevin O’Brien:  They are not necessary, I can go without them.


Steve Sherman: I think we are taking a break.


Kevin O’Brien:  I couldn’t make it to Col. Dickson entire presentation, I was running late.


BREAK [untranscribed discussions for about ten minutes]


Kevin O’Brien: 1975. Why should it make any difference to me? Well, it makes a difference to me because it made a big impact on my country first. Vietnam always hung like a shadow over me when I was a kid. My friends’ older brothers all had to deal with the draft. Most of you all in the audience here are of that generation, well you remember that the draft came up for everybody between 1940 and 1972 and you had that decision to make as to what you were going to do about it. The fact that you all are here tells me what decision you made. You probably didn’t even get to the point of the draft, most of you here, but that was something that was always there and I grew up in a very liberal Massachusetts town and by the time I was in middle school, the received wisdom that was being propagandized and drummed into us daily with an efficiency that would have made Goebbels proud was that Vietnam was bad, Vietnam was evil, that the military were a bunch of knuckle-dragging idiots who were baby killers except when they were evil geniuses, they were really stupid. There was a certain contradiction in that that was apparent to me even when I was ten or twelve years old and I always, you know, watched the John Wayne movies, looked up to military people, admired these older brothers of my friends, they made what was becoming a hard decision and went to the war. But I never really thought about going into the military myself. In the 1970s, the military’s reputation was at an extremely low ebb and when I graduated from high school in 1975, it was understood in my family that you are going to go to college and you are not going to go in the service. I wasn’t a candidate for a service academy or a ROTC scholarship or any of that because my vision was too poor, but I had always had this admiration for the military and I went off to college with that in the back of my mind. And one of the friends I made was a guy who had been on an intelligence exploitation team in Vietnam and his job was to go in after a battle and police up the documents and bring them back and hand them to the translators. The translators themselves were too busy translating, so this guy was taught enough Vietnamese so he could kind of tell if that was important or not and he would go out there and get the documents and the diaries and what not from the grounds and bring them back. I thought that was a fascinating story and he was the guy I hung around with, and at that time I had a rock and roll band going, I was chasing girls and every once in a while I would show up for a class. As a consequence of that, at that end of my first year at Holy Cross, I was invited to continue my education elsewhere. They weren’t very particular about where else, just somewhere else. So I went off and I bummed around state schools for a while and then my father, I did grow up with some advantages in life, my father finally did me the best thing he ever did of all the gifts he gave me. After I had been in college for four years and just finished my fourth year, I had finally gotten in my head out of where I had had it plugged and made it on to the Dean’s list. I was told to show up in his office in the house and you came into the office and you stood on the carpet, you know, it is the expression being called on the carpet which was what was happening. And he said, “Well, tell me about your degree. What is it in?” And I said, “Well sir, I don’t exactly have a degree, but I am having my credits transfer in junior next year and then ….” He says, “Oh , so you are planning to go to school next year?” I said, “Yes sir.” He says, “How are you planning to pay for this?” “Umm,….. I am having…” “Well, you are certainly not getting another dime from me. The deal was I would pay for four years of college. You happened to squander that, too damned bad. Go find yourself a job.” “But, but I don’t know how to do anything.” So it turns out, this was 1979, it was the recession year, I wound up at the Employer of Last Resort because for some reason nobody wanted to hire in the middle of a recession a 20-year-old with a huge chip on his shoulder. I do not have my cell phone; my cell phone has been missing since middle of today. [Break]

The operation order for the D-day invasions was six pages long. Have you ever seen? Of course that doesn’t have the answers. They were six pages long. You know what happens to a guy today if he turned in a six page long operations order at any NCO or Officers’ School in the US Army? They would be howling with laughter. You would be a laughing stock and you would probably be in the immortal words that I have heard many times in my career, ‘son, you are a no-go at this station.” So anyway, I had just become a no-go at the college station and found myself at the Employer of Last Resort. And I am thinking of ‘I have got to get some money to get back into college. I will do the minimal in the Army. I need to do just two years. I will do two years, get in and get out, and that will be it. I won't have to fuss with that anymore and I will have some great VA benefits, right.’ Yeah, there would be have been chuckles there from VA benefits. Anyway, I go in, and the recruiter, she tells me, that is first shock, the recruiter was a female; I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting I dunno, Sergeant Carter from Gomer Pyle at least Sergeant Bilko or something, but I got this lady. She does, ‘what do you want to do?’ And I had read an article in Soldier of Fortune magazine. “I want to be a tank driver in 82nd Airborne Division.” And she looked at me and she said, you know, we don’t let just anyone drive our tanks. First, you have got to pass the test.” I am like _____ boy, college boy. “Bring on your test.” I take the test and I can't get anyone to talk about tanks any more. So finally they talked me into going into this intelligence thing, you’ll living in embassies and doing like James Bond stuff and, of course, I am halfway through training at the Defense Languages Institute learning Czech and I find out my destiny is to wind up in a bunker with no windows listening to commies talk on their radio. And I have got to tell you guys, commies are some dull people; they don’t anything on the radio that is worth writing down even though those guys do it day in and day out. So it became how you get out this assignment and it turned out… the army has a very hard time finding people that were once enough to learn the commie language and stupid enough to get sucked into this job. So once you are in, there is a sort of a ratchet effect and there is hardly any way you can get out unless they catch you in bed with a dead girl or a live boy, probably today not even that or you know, do something insane like volunteer for Special Forces. So I tried to volunteer for Special Forces and my paperwork kept getting lost somewhere in the company office and after language school, I went to technical training and there was a Major Smith there that had served in the Airborne and he was a little sympathetic and one day he said, ‘now, take all these casuals. There is some clown here from Special Forces wants to do a presentation. We promised him we would have people to see it. March the casuals over because everybody is not in class and have them see the Special Forces presentation. So we marched over there and the guy’s carrousels of slides have gotten lost. It is just like the experiences we were having with the technology here. There was a lieutenant named Roger “Chip” Reneman and a sergeant name Richard Plummer and these guys gave the presentation and they finally found some other slides and they showed some slides of guys shooting machine guns and they said, ‘we are not about that; we are an intelligence gathering unit that works in the Special Forces framework. But we will give you chance if you qualify to go to Special Forces Group.’ I am thinking, cheez, you know, I am kind of a pudgy little college boy and all these Special Forces guys, I have seen them on TV and they are all big muscled men, you know, over 9 feet tall, the hero is a John Wayne. So I can't do that shit, (pardon my language). So but I figured, I will go as long as I can till they find out I am a phony. I will go with the, maybe, I can make it to jump school, although that is really hard too. But I just won't quit.’ And so I volunteered to go with these guys, but the funny thing is when the presentation ended, they brought the lights up in the theatre and all my casuals I had marched over were gone. There were five guys left; all five of us had volunteered; four made it into Special Forces and the last guy didn’t because they didn’t have slots in that program called the SOD program for a linguist with his particular language. He wound up going on to get a commission and served credibly as a commissioned officer. So, basically these guys came, they put their juju on me. I bought the whole thing hook, line, and sinker and I wound up with 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Devens and the key there that ties it into why we are all here is that at that time, all the key leaders in 10th Special Forces Group were Vietnam veterans. And it was something that that was just understood that, you know, not just the group commander, of course, and the group sergeant major, our group commander who wound up leaving his tour early _____ named Riviera who I was afraid to talk to because I was just a nothing Spec-Four and these guys are some pretty impressive dudes. At that time I was on the combined ASA unit, the MI unit into the 10th MI Company, so I was an MI weenie in the 10th Special Forces Group and I will try to get to the Special Forces School, and I had a hard time. First, I had my glasses and they wouldn’t let any guys with glasses. So they finally started letting in guys with glasses and they wouldn’t let in people who had an MI on the list, because of ratchet effect that I told you about before. So, finally while everything was waiting to fall together, you know, what am I going to do to kill time I might as well go to this Ranger School, that should be easier than I said. So I went in and I killed two months doing that. Let me save my salary for those two months, that’s about all I will say about that. So after that they finally did let me to go to Special Forces School and lo and behold, I graduated. Once again, we had lots of inspiration there. Many of the NCOs conducting the training were Special Forces veterans or conventional Army veterans of Vietnam. One of the key men in Phase 1 who was just leaving as I got there was, then Major, Bob Howard, who some of you may have heard of. Howard was a Medal of Honor winner and Distinguished Service Cross winner in Vietnam and Major Howard remains to this day one of the few people I am frightened of, _____ in confident. He retired I believe as a Lieutenant Colonel at least.


Steve Sherman: Full Colonel.


Kevin O’Brien:  Full Colonel? Thank you. Well, he has a large imposing presence and like I said, at the time I was a pretty lowly man. One of the experiences I had in 10th Group while I was, it was before I went SF school, I was working for Jon Cavaiani in the isolation area, and I was a LNO for the team, and he was a very inspirational guy and of course, the big news was he had the medal. And the other big news was, it was not a part of his day-to-day life. He was just a guy who had been honored for his service, but continued to serve and boy, was that an example! And now it is typical of the examples that we had, all the way back to my first NCOs and basic training who were, of course, Vietnam veterans. We had a guy named Tony Agleyo who had been a Special Forces NCO. At one time in Vietnam, he was just an infantry soldier and he was decorated there and he was a good old short Hispanic guy, very positive, very up, and he was just the sort of guy that you want to be like that. So all the time I am encountering these Vietnam veterans, Col. Davis, Col. Cherry, Col. Crearer, and Col Potter; the senior officers as well as the NCOs, Sergeant Major Mulcahy, people that make a real impression of a guy, and it was always a positive impression and yet, I have had to contrast this in my mind with the image of Vietnam veterans that had been beaten into me by the media, the press, the propaganda in school that they were these guys that were ticking time bombs, they were on the way to you know, whatever they had been destroyed by their service in Vietnam, and yet everyday I was around guys who could have sat back and rested on their laurels, but instead, were continuing on continuing to serve and continuing to set the example and that made a real and powerful impression on a young man, and that still stays with me today. So, of course, 1985 comes around. I had been in Group for about five years. I had managed to destroy my knee, which was a tradition. I think we have this man to thank for the route, that the 12-mile rucksack march was on.


Jon Cavaiani: They still have that.


Kevin O’Brien:  The 12-mile or the endurance event has not changed, of course, and the course is still there, although you wouldn't recognize much at Fort Devens any more. There is still some of the team houses, are still there up the hill. So in 1985, all of a sudden, the army ASA had become the intelligence and security command and they are going through their paperwork and they find, “hey, there is this jerk we paid for his language school back in 1979, and he has been hiding in Special Forces for five years. Lets get him.” So I wound up being sent to a horrible place where I was a platoon sergeant for a bunch for MI people, which was kind of like being in kindergarten for special children or something. I mean they were good people, they served in their own way and the country is stronger for having them in service, but they were so much harder to lead than Special Forces soldiers that now I started to understand some of the stress that people like throw. One time we got assigned as our Sergeant Major in the MI Company, an old SOG-ger Rick Grabianowski and I thought he was going to have a heart attack. Well, he got so stressed out because at the time, the army used to permit a man to grow a decent moustache and in the early 1980s they changed that, decided they wanted to have a very small trimmed moustache which was not a very widely observed rule in Special Forces at all times. We did know how to get pretty for the brass, but when there were no brass around, we tended to try to look good for the girls we were trying to pick up rather than for the Sergeant Major because we honestly weren’t trying to pick him up. Well, he drummed on us, and drummed on us, and drummed on us at morning formations till one of our guys made a moustache template and a fake army regulation and hung it up on the bulletin board and he said, “where did this come from? I never saw this.” He took it down and he started looking for the message traffic that sent us this new Army regulation. It was something that the guys just threw together, but that also illustrated, the moustache regulation also illustrated for something else that was happening in the Army. When I joined the Army in the late seventies, it was a mess. We had dopers and we had dopes in basic training. We had a guy who actually failed basic training because he couldn’t learn the hand salute because it was beyond his mental ability to do that, and he was trying; he was putting his whole heart into it, but you know, that was all, there you go. May be it was me, okay. So, anyway, all of a sudden the Army was tightening up on who it let in as the eighties went on, and they started testing for drugs which was very controversial when it first came in. But I saw the results because, there used to be a lot of stoners hanging around and all of a sudden the ranks started to get thinned out. They either got caught or they decided that they were not going to be stoners any more or they decided that may be the Army was not the right place for them to be and that was just an example of how the discipline in the Army began to tighten up during the 1980s, and we went from what the Chief of Staff Meyer had called the “Hollow Army” of the late 1970s; we went from a very undisciplined and really weak force, we began to tighten up and the army began to show the discipline, and who was it that was tightening that Army up and making it show that disciple? Well, it was the officers and the NCOs who had learned their trade on the ground in Vietnam. Well, anyway, after a couple of years in MI land, I was told that my assignment choices were to stay in MI land for the rest of the _____ so I got out of the Army and then I found out from a friend that there was a thing called the Reserve Special Forces and this raggedy-looking _____ gets me at the end of an exercise in about 1988 and you see their blanket out there at the end of the M16. At the same time there, while the ranks of the Vietnam veterans had been thinning very much on active duty as NCOs reached the 20 year, 25 year point, wherever they decided they wanted to leave. In the Reserves, it was almost like stepping back into the 10th Group of 1980 all over again because you had many guys who had a long break in service and then came back in and they were trying to make the years for retirement. So we had on the average team that once again, on the average ODA, we had probably three men out of twelve who were Vietnam veterans. Sometimes both. Sometimes we actually get familiar with that effect, yeah.


Audience: 14821 INAUDIBLE.


Kevin O’Brien: Yeah, and we had a few characters there, we did indeed. You might be thinking of Conrad Hansen?


Audience: The whole group of them.


Kevin O’Brien:  Yeah, Conrad was a legend. He was a Vietnam veteran and he served with the Marine’s Force Recon, which was the Marine Force Recon unit that covered basically everywhere in Vietnam marines needed recon. When he was done doing that, he got out of the marines and joined the army. The army put him in a unit called Charlie Rangers, which was an Army _____ unit that covered pretty much the whole country. So he hadn’t served in SF in Vietnam, but his Vietnam experience came in extremely handy to us. Conrad Hansen who served his first combat tour with the Marines, I want to say 1966, I believe just retired from the Individual Ready Reserve in 2003. He was with the reserve components all that time. For the last years that he was on in the active reserve, he was with another unit I was in, we will get to it in a minute, and he was responsible for our training team. So he very directly was passing on his insights, his experiences, and his character to the young men coming up in Special Forces today, and that is how it is done. It is done from man-to-man, it is done on a basis of respect, I mean every one of us has had people whether it is teachers or leaders or friends or there has been people we wanted to emulate and a lot of these how and where you wind up in life comes from who it was you decided that you were going to follow, that you wanted to be like. I made my decision as a slick sleeve private, I wanted to be like Tony Agleyo. I never got quite that short, but…. Okay, so 11th Special Forces Group, we did a lot of Norway and stuff like that. There is ODA 1122, this is an illustration of exactly what I mean because if you look at these guys up here, the guy in the upper left hand corner is John Conley, Vietnam veteran, next guy is Chris Torrelli, and the third guy, see kind of an old guy hanging back there, Jerry McGuire, Vietnam veteran with the 101st when it first went over, a New York City cop, retired from both jobs now, Kennox, Ron Bucca; I am not sure whether Ron was a Vietnam veteran or not; I know he was a veteran of the 101st, but I don’t know if he was in Vietnam, okay, but he was another one of our leaders and the young newbies are in the front row, Glenn Zomanic, Ron Brown, me and Karl Scott, and of those guys most of them have served in some role or other in operation and during freedom or Iraqi freedom. Major Torrelli, now I believe full Colonel Torrelli was commander of one of the task forces, John Conley is, I believe, a Sergeant Major assigned to Joint Forces Command. Ron Bucca was an inspiration to all of us. He was a fireman and had been badly injured and so he became a fire marshal [at the World Trade Center], and Ron was actually in my book, he was the first Special Forces KIA of the current war. He was still in excellent shape; he had run from the ground floor to the 78th floor up the stairs and was at the 78th floor when the building collapsed. So, he was one hell of a guy and I hadn’t called him in a long time because, you know, we can always get together some time and talk, you know, and this happened, so.

In 1994, the Secretary of the Defense and the President had a great idea that they could reorganize the military in the process. Got rid of a lot of units said it didn’t need it, including the unit that we were just talking about, the 11th Special Forces Group, and two Special Forces Group from the Reserve were eliminated and the feeling was it could have been worse, because they wanted to start with packing the two reserve groups and two active duty groups also, so he managed to keep the active duty groups alive. And one of the reasons they got rid of Special Forces was, and I am not making this up, I believe that A) there was an anachronism, they weren’t needed any more. After all, they dated from Vietnam and everyone in that administration knew Vietnam was bad. Of course, they didn’t know the history or they would have known Special Forces dated from long before Vietnam. And the other reason was the feeling that having flexible forces like this would actually act as a trip wire and be likely to suck the US into war in troubled areas. Some of you guys may have heard that. That was the favorite argument of Les Aspen. He is also the guy that covered himself in glory in Mogadishu in October of 1993. Let’s not go into politics; this is merely a political matter. What happened is the outcome of it, those two units were disbanded and the guys that wanted to stay on had to scramble to find themselves a home, and there are a few of these guys and the reason I show this; this picture was taken just before September 11th in 2001 and this is just four guys, friends who got together to go on a jumping competition, the Rhode Island National Guard holds every year and one is Zemanic, you might have remembered him from the other pictures, now Chief Warrant Officer, that is our current commander, Major Phil Magi, and the next guy is Kevin Farrow, who is a veteran of the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam and he is still serving today in this unit, and their chubby colleague is here and we know him. We had been given a new area of South America; we were all made to learn Spanish and the next thing you know we were in Afghanistan. So we thought it was quite a change when a bunch of guys who skiied in Norway were suddenly told, ‘oh, by the way, your next mission is Surinam’ and our next mission, you know, couple of years after that was to a completely different place, but nobody else in SF spoke that language either so it really didn’t make a difference who they sent, okay, and this is just a couple of hero pictures. Here is another couple of our guys, the last man on the right is obviously a young fellow; he has gone on to serve elsewhere in the Global War on Terror. The guy on the left is Dave Suhl and Dave Suhl was an SF medic in Vietnam in 1968. Dave had a long break in service and you see is only an E-6. He is a staff sergeant but he came back to specifically to --. He had been out of our unit for a while, he came back specifically because we were deployed and when he got back from Vietnam, he went to his second combat tour which was to try to get a degree in Berkeley during the riots and what not that were going on, and that is me over there, teaching weapon safety class. That is a Korean mine with some type of description or another. I am not an engineer, so I didn’t actually complete the setting on the mine. And there was a just, you know, typical couple of days off, I will just sup up and blow it up when we got to it and that was our lovely home away from home. It is actually mostly up to the right of the slide, but we are taking a little hike up the hill, which shows us gasping and wheezing, we got a much younger fellow and here what we are seeing is mostly the Afghan compound and ours is to the right. But anyway that camp that was there was a task force called TF Roll Out and that task force had a commander, it had a sergeant major, who was Dick Byron, he was a vet in Vietnam, he is our company sergeant major and he had a variety of other people on it, including, we had… I want to say we had three or four Vietnam vets with us, we would have had one more, except and I want to say in 2001, Bob Donahue, broke his hip badly enough that he couldn’t stay and in service. I see a couple of people nodding they know Bob, so I have one last slide just to show you that the one thing that I wish we all had in Vietnam was…okay, technology wins. That was my drama slide too. Yeah that is the one I have got, the one that says MAC on it in big letters for the MAC, I dunno. There we go, okay, yeah it is beautiful. It is absolutely beautiful, it isn't all like this. I mean it is all kinds of different parts of Afghanistan, but there are places where it looks just like Monument Valley or with some of the guys who were not so well travelled does, ‘damn, looks just like the place for Wiley Coyote chases the Roadrunner.’ Okay, I think I just deleted the slide inadvertently. But I just wanted to show you that is the helicopter ride in because up there where we are standing, the helicopters can't really fly too well up there. So it flies through the north into the valley and I have to say, you know, the Taliban are highly rated and all that but the only time I really was frightened was riding in the helicopters, because those things are scary and climb between rocks and helicopters. It looks great when you see them do it in a Star Wars movie or something, but you really don’t want to be there with two 20-year-old warrant officer pilots who still think they are immortal and you know we are a bunch of old geezers, the median age of my team was about 50, so well the mean rather, Byron drove that up, he drove that way up.


Audience: Is this near a poppy field?


Kevin O’Brien:  There are poppy fields in all the valleys.


Audience: 20044 INAUDIBLE.


Kevin O’Brien:  Okay. Well, there are poppy fields in all the valleys, and I actually have some photos of those too. There are fields for wheat and we were there throughout. We rolled in with the task force during the wintertime. I was still back at the FOB, I was working the radios back at the FOB at that time. So I caught up with them later. I got like four or five helicopter rides, because I was lucky enough to get medevaced and go out through the notch and back into the notch. Out through the notch at night was not something you want to do. But, like I said, all of my bad experiences have a helicopter associated with them and most of my inspirational experiences have a Vietnam veteran associated with them. May be I should have chosen a biker gang or something, but instead I picked the Army. Okay. Now, go to the next slide. Stupid machine obey me.


Audience: I think the machine may be getting tired.


Kevin O’Brien:  Okay. I think probably everybody is getting tired. I will certainly take questions and if anybody has other pictures they want to see, I have my ….on. Has anyone got any questions about the deployment in Afghanistan where obviously there are things I cannot go into, but there is a lot of stuff that is clear to be discussed and I will use my judgment on that. I am going to wind up with Sandy Burglar as a cellmate if I am wrong.


Audience: 20237 I am not arguing with the people in _____ job. They are not dealing with the _____.


Kevin O’Brien:  We were organized in a task force and so each task force had PSYOPS and civil affairs assigned to it, so it would be overall task force that was commanded by General Mckeno, there was Combined Joint Task Force 180. Then under that there was a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan. The commander of that was Col Champion, Col “Greg” Champion. Underneath that we had F.O.Bs and the F.O.B.s had anything between 18 divisions around _____ or in some cases they put together a larger task force. They canceled the _____ Task Force Recon. At our peak, we had about 2 to 6 18 series USSF and miscellaneous nonqualified personnel with _____ who wouldn’t be able to do the job without this _____ and we had 299 Afghan soldiers with us and we were reporting combat operations in the Afghan Army. So we not only had civil affairs groups with us that was under attack, we had a noncivil affairs report to the _____. We had PSYOPS that went into it all and then later we were able to request them _____ and they were extremely so. Now at the Task Force level, it was decided that if we had to leave, we had PSYOPS and civil affairs come down to working together. One of the CA 18 _____ their civil affairs. The PSYOPS group was _____ as a _____. The overall SHOB would be CJ7. Those guys were INAUDIBLE _____which we had. Mostly _____ indigenous because you have a country which is _____ countryside and _____ and so it was very focused on symbols _____. I wouldn’t say became if I were you. He has got the 20523 INAUDIBLE 20949.


Audience: _____ all of the Vietnam _____ not deploying plain role models _____ in their own discussions in all of the area of training. What I am curious about is what one man you know, handled the destruction, the discussion, with migrating individual soldier in Vietnam and he became _____ still you are although with one group you are _____.


Speaker: Vietnam really destroyed _____ admire the war belongs _____.


Audience: Well, it certainly wasn’t _____ and it is still fascinating, you know, ever since I started series of _____. That doesn’t mean that if I have several _____


Speaker: Now can I speak for _____ INAUDIBLE.


Fred Rice: Time to sail very smoothly here because of time. One of the discussion there, it wasn’t mentioned well with what was going on, a lot of the _____ discussed about two Vietnam veterans who came back; we are talking about the stuff in today’s context. There are several mentions made of Prof Capps of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and I mentioned earlier this evening that my daughter was a student at Santa Barbara in 1991 and my son was a Cobra pilot himself and she asked Prof Capps in his class, Vietnam’s _____ if he used to invite people in to speak. She said, ‘would you like my father to come in to speak? He did a couple of tours in Vietnam, he was in Special Forces and he was in a regular unit, he was at the headquarters serving and straight dealing with Westmoreland, so he has got three hidden voices to what Vietnam looked like. Would you like him to come in?’ He said, ‘absolutely.’ So I came up there and we stood outside the building and it was just about time to go in my daughter says, ‘we are going in this room right here.’ I walk in and it was not a classroom. It was one of the largest auditoriums; it is the seventh auditorium built in and I didn’t realize and I walked in and there are 800 students in that class. It was the biggest, most popular as Burkett mentioned, it was the most popular class on the campus. Well, this guy was a real, he didn’t care about the facts, he was a very little ….he was a very nice guy. He later ran for Congress and 21445 _____ just after _____. Capps was a nice guy, but he was still pretty liberal. What I am going to show you is a portion of his introduction. He got off on the ether to begin with it. He introduced my daughter and listen very carefully to what she says. Her brother is in Iraq and she is trying to introduce me and tell the rest, tell 800 kids, she has never spoken before an audience that big, what her thoughts were about her brother being in Iraq and then she introduced me and I talked the stuff on Vietnam and so let’s see if we can load this up here. Hope it loads quickly. It is a DVD, but they loaded it in last night, shouldn’t take long. And of the important things, and compared to what you are hearing and people saying now, my comments were made at 1991, it was a lot closer to the time. We didn’t have all the stuff of what was happening to Kerry and the Democrats and now as we serve into the _____ settlement and so forth, there you go….it was a lot more contemporaneous and it was directly after Vietnam. Let us see if we are .…




Prof Capps: Anyway we have an opportunity today. I have got somebody who worked very closely with General William Westmoreland and his name is Fred Rice and his daughter is here, but I don’t know if you want me to introduce him.


Speaker 2: She does and this will take the topic into different direction, then we will all have time to and I would like you to ask some questions.


Ginel Rice: Hi, my name is Ginel and before I introduce my father, I just want to say something about what is going on today. Right now my brother is in Saudi Arabia. He went to my school and he graduated in 88 and now he is an Army First Lieutenant and he is 24-years old. He started Cobra helicopters and he has been in Saudi Arabia since August and I just wanted to say that when the war began I was so upset, I couldn’t believe it was happening and I was like, God, I didn’t know what to do and all I could think about was this, nothing was worth my brother’s life, you know, I was just very upset, but anyway, after I had calmed down and gotten myself together, I knew I had to do some serious thinking. I wasn’t the only one that was really confused. I didn’t know which way I was now going, so what I did, I was listening to lots of arguments from both sides and I questioned many things and I never jumped to just one side or another, but I am proud to say that I support my brother and I mean like a 100% behind him all the way and I also want everyone to understand that, especially the people who are against the war that the people that support the war it doesn’t mean that they want war, nobody wants war and I don’t war. I don’t want anything to happen to my brother and also I want everyone to make sure that they know why they stand where they do, be educated and try not make assumptions one way or another. And also I want to say that if you have a friend that has family in the Gulf please be supportive of them. This is a very tough time and with everyday problems and we have the waiting, the wondering, the worrying on top of that, very stressful and it is really scary not knowing what is going to happen, not really knowing if he is going to come back or, you know, it is going to be awful when he comes back; this is very scary and you just have to keep very positive but it is hard to do. If you have friends, please help them and be supportive of them and no matter what kind of support, just everyone pray for a quick safe return of everybody. And now I would like to introduce my Dad and I am glad he came back from Vietnam or I wouldn’t be here. He graduated from West Point in 1960 and he had three tours in Vietnam. He served in 1963 as a First Lieutenant with a Special Forces team, which was the Green Berets, and then again in 1966 as a Captain where he commanded an artillery battery at the 25th ID and then he also went to Saigon as an aide to General Westmoreland’s Chief of Staff.


Fred Rice: Thank you Ginel, your first remarks were very well stated and I couldn’t agree with you more. Moves me a little. I guess you could call my remarks insights from somebody who happened to be at a couple of very very unique and very opportune positions for the couple of different times we were in Vietnam conflict. In 1963 I went over, when there were only 8,000 Americans in the country. There were about 50 Special Forces teams that went over there, not properly used. Special Forces was intended to train guerillas in Europe, that was their original establishment. They figured that if you know how to train guerillas, you can fight guerillas. So we went over to train the regular troops in Vietnam, the equivalent of Vietnamese National Guard to fight against the guerillas, since there were a lot of guerilla there. This was in 1963. One of the things that happened the month that I arrived in the country was there was 1500 political assassinations by the Viet Cong throughout Vietnam, including 500 village officials who were beheaded. Nobody ever remembers all the statistics like that. Boy I remember, that was a very chilling fact when we got there. We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew that that had happened just the month before we arrived. It gave us a lot of sense of purpose even though there weren’t many of us there. We spent the time, as I mentioned, training the Civilian Irregular Defense Groups, the CIDG troops. They were decent troops. One of the problems that we had was overcoming the old French political patronage system that put most of their officers in position. It was a difficult thing to do, but I think we did a fairly decent job. One of things that happened on my first tour that I relate very closely to the POW-MIA issue. A very close friend of mine is a gentleman by name of Col Nick Rowe, James Nicholas Rowe. We were classmates at West Point, we went through Ranger and Airborne Training together, went to Special Forces training. I was lucky enough to get on a team that went over before him and we met in the airport in Saigon; I was coming home in the same aircraft that he had arrived in and I said see you in six months, he was ready to be back, come back in six months schedule tour. I saw him almost six years later. Funny thing happened all the way to back to the States. He was captured in October 1953 and he spent five years as a POW. Nobody knew whether he was alive or dead. We had classmates and friends that were involved in operations that were intended to go try to get him out of there. He was considered highly dangerous and he was going to be executed. He escaped after five years. He was picked by a friendly helicopter on a raid and came back and bounced back 100%, they never got to him. He ended up as a full colonel in the Army, developed the army’s current Survival, Evasion, and Resistance and Escape course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Two years ago, almost three years ago, he was slated to go to the Philippines as head of the Military Advisory Group over there and he went over and a year later just about April of last year, he was assassinated by a Communist guerilla in Manila. He was very buried in Arlington Cemetery the first of May last year, and I went back to the funeral. Nick wrote a book. If you don’t want to see something that is, read an inspirational book, get a book called Five Years To Freedom. I would like to see everybody writing that down. The author is Col. James N. Rowe. He was able to keep a diary for five years, and it was just a phenomenal piece of work. He was beaten bloody many many many times. He was slated for execution three times and managed to come out of that; he never lost his sense of humor. A couple of observations I always wanted to be able to pass on to folks about things that happened in Vietnam as to why there was a kind of a rift between the people in the US and what happened over there and some things that I saw basically on the MACV staff while I was there and some other observations too. One of the biggest things I always noticed over there, and I said I am going to make myself remember this. One was it was virtually impossible to relate to an American public what life in general is like in a place like Vietnam, let alone to have them really understand that. On the one hand, you have places to look as beautiful as the Riviera along the coast, I mean just beautiful beaches and wonderful resorts. But on the other hand, you had the slums and backwoods locations that you could never ever make people in the US understand and really feel what it was really like. You can go into the worst barrios and slums to anyone in the United States and you are not going to see the like of the Chinese slums in Cho Lon outside of Saigon or in the back streets of Pleiku where there is no pavement in the whole city except may be one street and that is a fairly good sized city, you just can't relate what it was really like over there and I always used to express a lot of frustrations when I came back from my first tour that nobody could understand that. There were only 8,000 Americans there at that time and Saigon looked like Paris, in my trips I had managed to go to Paris on other Army assignments, I was amazed at what the similarity was; it is a beautiful city. When I went back there three years later, the city had changed quite a bit because so many people teemed into it. Saigon was like an island. It was almost like a free city. It was an open city. There was an unwritten rule up until the Tet Offensive, you won't do anything to Saigon and it was kind of the VC came in and out. So they didn’t announced themselves but they went in and out mingling with the rest of the people and it just didn’t have any relationship to the war. It was being in a fantasy world compared to where the war was. The war was a very difficult thing to describe. I think that was one of the biggest things is it was difficult and I think Prof Capps from his recent visit over there can attest to that; it is a different way of life. You just can’t relate to it and it is frustrating, the people back here could not understand that and I think that set up a lot of the problems in understanding what the war was all about. We were over there trying to help the people who were totally different from ourselves. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that we got an annual request from the Vietnamese government to be there, to assist them. We didn’t superimpose ourselves on them. From 1963 on, we are asked formerly every year by the Vietnamese government to help them get rid of the Communists. That was why we were there. That fact, I never hear that fact comes out, and it just amazes me that that never rises in conversation. Another thing is the some observation, and I think it was a very important one and so one I enjoy the most is the American soldier in Vietnam is the most adaptable, resourceful, innovative person or thing you could ever imagine. They had an uncanny ability to make any place, no matter how inhospitable, be just like home. We were out there in the dry season, you are ready to dig a foxhole. One morning, all of a sudden, the monsoons were there and what looked like a foxhole last night looked like a puddle this morning. Immediately we starting figuring out ways to build things up and build your foxholes above ground. The one outside my tent, I remember one tent was called the “Bomb Proof Hilton” and it was made out of ironwood trees about this big around and it would have taken a direct hit to go through that, but the American troops just adapted phenomenally and what you hear on the news right now, about the harsh conditions in the desert – don’t worry about it. There are people that lived in places like Buckeye, Arizona that are worse off than the people that are inside Iraq now. If you have ever been to Buckeye or Needles may be there is something you are from there. Let me tell you, the American soldier will adapt. There is one thing about the American soldier too that I think history has misrepresented the American soldier and this always really bothered me. I am not one of the guys who subscribes to the stereotype that you people are presented with in films and books and the media and everything else that the Vietnam veteran was a maladjusted social dropout who was drafted, who served reluctantly, poorly, against his will and came home hooked on drugs and has flashbacks every third night and had visions of napalm going through his mind. That does not exist except in very few cases. Recently there was an article in the Wall Street Journal; I hope some of you had a chance to already see this. A couple of things that just… some facts and statistics about the Vietnam veteran that I think you ought to know about. They were not reluctant conscripts. 25% were draftees as opposed to 66% in World War II. Now did anybody think or what is your thought of World War II? Everybody running to sign up. Vietnam, everybody is running to Canada, not to sign up -- not so. They were not just proportionally nonwhite, blacks suffered 12.5% of the deaths in Vietnam at a time when blacks in military aides were 13.5% of the total population and whites made up of 88.4% of the forces in Vietnam and accounted for 86% of the deaths. So it was not a racial issue, it was pretty well the same as society in general. The soldiers in Vietnam were not drawn from the poor; 76% came from the lower middle or working class background, not from poverty background. They weren’t ignorant; 79% had high school education. It was the most educated force the army had ever fielded. They didn’t disgrace themselves in combat; 97% earned honorable discharges. They didn’t crack up when they came home. Surveys show that 15% of the troops returning from Vietnam had psychological problems as compared to 30% in World War II. Think about what your perception is and what that statistics is. It is a totally different thing. 91% of actual Vietnam War veterans and 90% of those who saw heavy combat say they were proud to have served in Vietnam. Simply put, the Vietnam War serviceman was not some sort of social scum dredged from the bottom of the barrel. America sent some of its finest to Vietnam and I subscribe to that a 100% and I think that misrepresentation of what and who the American soldier was in Vietnam also did an awful lot to portray back here to the folks back here that we had some kind of poor guys that was over there against his will. The third thing that there is may be, and these are some things, they are a couple of gems that I got directly from General Westmoreland and I served as his aide-de-camp to his Chief of Staff. I got to sit in on daily briefings with General Westmoreland, assigned everyday for six months, I got to hear and know his voice so well that one day when I came back here a couple of years after I was back, I heard on a radio talk show, who is this voice and somebody saying ‘Merry Christmas’ and I called in and won a prize because this was General Westmoreland’s voice. Because all he said was ‘Merry Christmas’ but I knew his voice that well. General Westmoreland was a guy who graduated, he graduated from West Point in 1936. He became a general in Korea in 1949, very confident, very highly decorated and the thing of how would the strategy go; I don’t know how that strategy would go because I have heard General Westmoreland and members of his staff say things that were so much, you know, I wish I could sit across from that guy and find out what makes him tick, but a couple of other things that I have heard from General Westmoreland’s lips that are quite insightful. Did we have a winner in no-win policy? We had by de facto a no-win policy in Vietnam. Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara were presented with three military options. Short-term victory, long-term victory, and containment. The first would have taken the kind of effort we have in the Gulf right now. Massive buildup right away, call the reserves and everything else. The least the containment was a very gradual buildup that didn’t disturb anything and was politically safe. Lyndon Johnson shows short-term military victory as his stated goal for the troops in Vietnam. The troop levels he authorized were only sufficient for containment. Now, if that doesn’t tell you that we had an impossible situation over there, I don’t know what would. But that is the fact that I have heard from General Westmoreland’s lips. What happened about authorizations over there? Either Robert McNamara or Lyndon Johnson personally approved the movement of any troop unit of battalion size or larger, that is 500 men. You could not move a unit in the field without the personal individual approval of that great military strategist Lyndon B. Johnson and that great automaker, Robert McNamara. The two of them combined to turn the Army into something that I didn’t want to stay in, not because of Vietnam, but because the Army just got screwed up which was what I got. Fortunately, it is back on track right now and I wish I was back in, I would try to, it is doing great right now. What happened to end the war? Mostly public unrest. What were some of the things that contributed to it? And the question always comes up and it is one of the things that always bothered me; did the media really contribute to the end of the Vietnam War? In my opinion, absolutely yes. There is one man in particular, can anybody tell me who the one person is that was probably more responsible for the end of the Vietnam War than anybody else or the reluctance of Americans to fight there? Walter Cronkite. And this is another one, straight from General Westmoreland’s lips. Walter Cronkite came over and visited after the Tet Offensive. After Tet, we damn near broke the back of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. We just about dissipated everything they had. But Walter Cronkite came over a couple of days afterwards and stood out in the middle of Saigon and a couple of places just outside it for a couple of days and went back and said, ‘My god, there is terrible destruction. They must be winning.’ He came back and said to national television, ‘we have lost the war.’ Lyndon Johnson told General Westmoreland and I heard him again, he reaffirmed this in a lecture, General Westmoreland reaffirmed this in a lecture about two years ago. Lyndon Johnson said to him, ‘I have lost Walter Cronkite, I am afraid I have lost the American people and we have probably lost the war.’ And that was an observation made by Johnson to Westmoreland in 1968 just after Tet and if that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what does. My own personal experience with the press is a bit frustrating. On my tours though with the 25th division when I commanded an artillery battery and we had a lot of combat assigned, my wife would write and say, “what about that big battle you were in last week?” I said, “What battle? We were back in the base camp.” Or “Gee, I guess you had a nice time. There is not much action.” And we were getting the crap kicked out of us. There was no correlation between what we actually did and what was reported in the press, even in the Stars and Stripes. The most frustrating single thing I ever saw in the press over there was when I was in Saigon serving there I saw a headline in Stars and Stripes one day that said “Terror wave sweeps Saigon.” I thought what terror wave. I am here, I don’t see any terror wave. Every morning General Westmoreland would get a briefing of everything that happened in the country for the previous 24 hours. That afternoon they would have a press briefing and they would pass out a news release. The same thing you are seeing on TV that has happening over in Saudi right now. A very matter of fact boom boom boom. The next morning’s headlines would reflect what they got out of this and they manufactured. There was a bicycle found with some dynamite stick strapped to it leaning up against the tree, no fuses, just the sticks, outside the entrance to the airport. A grenade went off in a crowded area in the market place in Cho Lon, south of Saigon and two people were killed and there was a squad sized skirmish near the road out to Bien Hoa just outside the city limits of Saigon. Some enterprising reporter had taken those three events and somehow intertwined them and came out with a banner headline that said ‘Terror wave sweeps Saigon’. Things like that made me have absolutely zero faith in the press’ ability to relate what was happening accurately. And another statistic that just blew me away is 90% of the accredited photographers or reporters in Vietnam were housed and lodged in Saigon. They depended and fed off of the press pool, which they are bemoaning about over Saudi right now. They claimed they didn’t have free access in Vietnam, they had damn little. I saw one reporter, he was a junior reporter, in the forward base area and not even out in the combat area in the whole town when I had a year of combat and I never saw a reporter out there, especially not one of the by-liners. The head of Time magazine, the bureau chief, lives in a villa in Saigon with his wife and kids. That used to bother me a little bit. But I think that there was a very contributing factor. You put that on top of the fact that you had a difficult situation to relate to the American people and the result and the policy has got to really help. We didn’t have it then, so we were floating around trying to describe what we thought we were doing and we weren’t really sure, no wonder we couldn’t win over there. And I think probably the most frustrating thing to myself and most of the troops that served over there was the fact that we came home not winning. The troops while they were in the field -- don’t get the idea from movies that the troops in the field had this thing, ‘oh, I am not going to fight very well, because the folks back home don’t appreciate me.’ Uh-uh. The troops were over there, they fought, they fought to survive if nothing else. It is the same thing any troops do in any war. So, and I will give you a movie rating on every movie ever written about Vietnam, zero. It is impossible to capture. Everybody said that -- oh “Apocalypse Now” is a fairy tale. That thing is whew, you got to be smoking some funny to believe that that does happen and I really, that thing is so bad. One thing that comes true, there was an attack scene with helicopter that was very realistically staged and there are characters, a few, like the character Robert Duval played who said, ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’. They are called Armored Cavalry officers and they think they are the reincarnation of Patton. There are some guys like that, I don’t see some, but they are few and far between, thank God. I saw a couple over there; I served under one in one case. Most of the others, “The Deer Hunter” or whatever that talks about Russian roulette, I never heard of Russian roulette in two tours over there. I thought that that was a bad misrepresentation of Vietnamese people and the American troops over there. Everybody said “Platoon” ought to do it. “Platoon” took the experiences of 40 platoons and a whole division over a year and condensed it into one platoon and made it look like it all happened in a day and a half. It didn’t happen that way. They did an excellent job of portraying the sight and sound and smell of what it was like to be over there like the leeches and going through the sweat and the discomfort; it did an excellent job of portraying that part of it, but it was so intense that it was not real. It was like taking your whole life and compressing it into an hour. It just doesn’t work. That is not the real world. I don’t think there is yet to be a really good one. The first episodes of the TV show ‘Tour Of Duty’ were pretty close to life. Then it became a little hokey after that. They tried to be just like a soap opera. You know, it is the soap opera, but some of these things, so when you look at these things, step back and look at it, could this really have been this way? There were some heroes in Vietnam, not enough of them portrayed in the right way. I thing I will always remember too is this about 15-20% of all the people that ever served in Vietnam were even in combat, so when you see these people that claim that they got a rough time of things when they came home, I don’t think that that is the case in all cases. There are people who would have had problems anyway, but they didn’t get it as a result of combat. Remember, for every troop in the frontline, there is ten behind it, supply depots and all the support units that it takes, it takes a tremendous logistical tail fail. The staffing over at Vietnam and I think the same thing is true of the staffing now. It is made up of professional soldiers, highly motivated, great integrity for the most part across the board. There are individual glitches in that, but I think that there is no one that has an intention not to do the best job. I would like to leave you with one little thought that the plight in Vietnam, I don’t think it applies quite as much in the Gulf crisis right now. But it is a little poem that has been around ever since the Civil War before. It goes like this, God and the Soldier/ men adore/ in time of war/ and not before./ When peace returns/ and wrongs are righted,/ God’s forgotten/ and the soldier slighted. I am sure it happened in Vietnam. Thank you very much.




Fred Rice: The most important thing that came from that is that stage is _____ happened in 1991, not today. After it has been _____ all the other events here and my views have never ever changed one bit from that. I believe exactly the same now as I did then. I believe those same things, I do not cave into any of these and you have heard other people that have been up here say the same thing. I do not believe in this business of up and down problem soldier and all those other stuff; I am not even a big fan of Agent Orange, but I think it was the best thing for the government to have done, but I don’t know whether there is a direct cause there. I mean that is me, sorry. If anyone would throw a rock at me for that one, I don’t know and I don’t really care, but that is what I believe is that I don’t know if we had something that could do that, we would have the most powerful biological agent _____ home without _____. Iraq has played her _____, we don’t want to leave. It is a totally different perspective. Those are my thoughts between 1974 and 1991, I had a son in combat and he came, he came home real quick though. When the war was over in Iraq, my son called me afterward. He was in the Air Task Force, the 24th Division and when a _____ we are taking about the big sweep around the left end, I picture him, the 24th Division went around there, air attack, he is out with a bunch scouting around there and so we have those soldiers, who gets to a phone and they call home and I just, I sat out there and I am picturing you at over 180 knots and about 100 feet off the ground about 10 miles up the front and he says, ‘Dad, you got _____ no big scotches.’ I say, ‘what do you mean?’ He said, ‘we were 180 knots and that is max speed, but we were a 100 miles out _____and ten feet up.’ I said, “what the hell are you talking about?” He said four days before the war started and the captain sent us ten miles in to shoot without them. There were eight helicopters; four scouts and four cobras. There were ten feet off the ground, there was nothing to hide behind so they technically got _____, that was in half of the year. Normally they are 10 feet above the tree tops, there were no trees, so they were 10 feet above the desert with no _____. They were 10 miles from _____ and he said they were pointing out _____. Consider the _____ the day before the ground war started, the attack was just go to the end of your grain, they went a 100 miles in and didn’t find a damned thing and they came back again and that is how it was, the 24th Division and it was one of the first that were able to go _____ holding around and then they didn’t sleep because they knew there was nothing out there because of the heat. An aircraft went out and strafed the area ultimately. That is not only _____ the Gulf. But anyway that is my perspective, the one I was asking you over at some other time. I will always _____ for Charles in this message. I first met him when he came to talk to me, and he was at that _____ group up in sunny California and he taught me a lot of things about how to tell a hard story about Vietnam.

Charles Wiley: Thanks for the kind words. I am sure you are all big fans of Walter Cronkite. Let me tell you a story about him. A few years ago, I was asked by a teacher in a California high school to help a class that had entered a national history project about Vietnam. They had heard the usual bullshit and I was asked to come in and give a different view. One of the things I told the kids was what Cronkite said about the Tet Offensive, on C-SPAN. I can get you the exact date, if anybody wants it, because I got the transcript later and know that I am right on target. The man, who influenced many opinions in the United States, was asked, 25 years after the fact, why he had changed his mind and decided to come out against the war in Vietnam. And, he said, ‘Well, I went there, and I found out that 19 Communists were able to take over the American Embassy for six hours." When he said that, I couldn't believe I had heard it correctly -- and got the transcript. And, he really did say that they captured the American Embassy.

These kids did a hell of a job of researching -- and they got Cronkite to agree to an interview. They called him and asked about this and that -- and then one of the kids said, “We had a man come to our class who told us that you said 19 Communists took over the American Embassy -- and he claimed that none of them ever set foot in the American embassy for one minute. Would you comment on that?” Walter Cronkite, "the most trusted man in America," concluded the interview and wouldn’t cooperate with the kids any more. I guarantee you what I just told you is true – and I can get you any details you want.

[Incidentally, the class won a national prize and were given a trip to Washington.]

Bill Laurie: Can we have a minute? There is just one quick [Cronkite story] doesn?t relate to Vietnam. He was in Moscow after World War II. [He came back in] I believe  1949 he was giving a talk in Omaha and was asked, 'Mr. Cronkite when would the Soviets develop an atomic bomb.'   He said "I had a plumbing problem in my apartment and the plumber couldn't fix it. Now if they can’t fix a simple plumbing problem they can't develop an atomic bomb.” He walked out and there is the headline in the paper, "Soviet detonated the atomic bomb."