Examining the Myths of the
The Culpability of the Media
[There has been some editing to make the speech easier to read and understand.]
Charles Wiley: I did not go to Vietnam while in the Service. I was in Vietnam as a reporter in 1962 and 1964. I was fortunate enough to land back there the day before it began, so I covered the entire Tet Offensive in 1968. I went over again about a week after the Easter Offensive started in 1972. Ive also been back since.
On the home front, I spent a lot of time covering antiwar activities and was involved in some of the things that were done to support our GIs -- which is one of the subjects I am going to cover today.
It is great to be back in Boston. I havent spoken here for quite a while -- but I have some very fond memories of Boston. Of course, I am a lot older -- but fortunately, I havent lost any of my short-term memory. It is nice to be back in Boston . I havent been here for a long time, but I do have some great memories of having been in Boston in the past. Of course, I am older -- but fortunately I have not lost any of my short-term memory.
All right folks, I need a little help out there. I know its early -- but think about it.
By the way, I said that at a retirement home a short time ago and also prodded the crowd, because there were a couple of people that didnt get it. A guy stood up in the back and explained: The reason they didnt get it is because they dont remember that you just said that.
I want to start out by talking, very quickly, about the news media and what it is all about. I think a lot of people underestimate its unbelievable power. The news media is the most powerful force in our society; the most powerful force in our country. It has more power than the Presidency, than Congress, State government, whatever. The news media decides what you think about. It decides what you think about, what you talk to your friends and your fellow workers about. It decides what problems we are going to try to solve -- and the order in which we try to solve them. If you dont believe that, just keep track of whats in the papers from November through August of any given year --and then lets see what the people who are running for office talk about in September and October. I dont care whether its local, state or national. It is rare that any political figure ever brings up new subjects. They simply pick up on the subjects that the media has decided are the issues that we, as a people, are going to take on. And, the media often decide more than that. They set, very frequently, the framework within which we hold the public discussion about those subjects. They decide, by and large, what the premises are that we use to attack the problems. And, I might add, very frequently the premises that they offer are incorrect.
Another thing that should always be said when you are talking about the news media is to point out that there are two totally different types of reporters out there -- and they are as different as night and day. I dont think that there is enough recognition of this fact, even by the critics of the media, and that is where the problem is. They may dress the same; they may look the same; they may have gone to the same journalism school and sat in the same classrooms; they may even be working for the same newspaper, television or radio station. But their message is totally different. One group is what we call objective reporters. Usually older, they learned their profession in the old days or from old-timers They see their job as that of gathering information and passing it on to the public without adding their opinions into the mix; that is what an objective reporter is all about. Then, we have advocate journalists and, in one sense, they are not really journalists at all. They are propagandists -- and have a totally different aim. Their opinion often becomes the centerpiece of their articles. So, you can have two pieces side by side with no way of knowing, in most cases, which one was written by an objective journalist and which one was written by an advocate journalist.
You can describe the difference between the two with a single word for each. Objective journalists are trying to inform you. They are trying to bring you information. Advocate journalists are trying to influence you. What they are doing, in effect, is trying to pull your strings. They are trying to get you to support the people and the causes that they support -- and to be against the people and the causes that they are against. And, this country cannot stand for that much longer.
Wesley Pruden, at the Washington Times, said, Editors and reporters are always honest, impartial, fair and objective. And, if you dont believe that, just ask any of them. Well, unfortunately, probably half of them are none of the above. You cannot come up with a specific figure, but I think it is likely about 50-50 out there objective reporters who are trying to inform and advocate journalists who are trying to push their point of view. I want to make it very clear that editorial writers, commentators, columnists, talk show hosts, political cartoonists and critics -- I am a critic -- are giving you an opinion. And it is perfectly legitimate if you are in one of those categories. But, what is not legitimate is to pass something off as a news story and then slant it. That is where there is a lot of confusion.
Pruden also said that the media is fair to everybody but, they are fairer to some than they are to others. This is the old George Orwell line, All the animals are equal, but some are more equal.
One other thing I would say about the media, before I get to Vietnam, is that advocate journalists rarely lie. One of our problems is that many critics keep looking for the Big Lie to nail these guys. Well, they dont tell very many big lies. They dont even tell a lot of small lies, for that matter, because a reporter would have to be pretty stupid, in a free society, to lie. If you lie, you are eventually going to get caught -- and then you lose all your credibility. What advocate journalists do, in effect, is to change the image of reality -- without lying. And, if you change the image of reality for any length of time, you begin to change the reality itself. As you change the reality, you change history. And, the news media has changed history. Mightily so.
The war in Vietnam is an example that a lot of people in this audience know. During the war, a number of our major new agencies forbade their reporters to use the term our (O-U-R) when they referred to American GIs. They were not to describe Americans as our troops because that would indicate we were taking sides. This is an example of how you kind of manipulate the news without, in a sense, telling a lie. Is it any wonder that there were officers in Vietnam who had this description for a reporter: A reporter is a man or woman who watches a battle from the top of a hill. And, when it is over, they come down -- and shoot the survivors. Well, that was the feeling that you got very frequently. I spent a lot of time on both sides of it. I almost had fistfights with other reporters.
Something was said here this morning and yesterday about the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution . It is an example of how you start a false picture and then just keep drawing it over and over and over. How many times have they talked, in one way or another, about the attack that may not have happened, the one at night, but ignore the one that actually happened? It is as if there was only a single attack and that one is now considered to have been fraudulent, And, they claim that the false report was issued on purpose. The truth of the matter is that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was a response to an attack on the United States Navy in open waters. It had nothing to do with whether it was one attack or two attacks. They attacked the United States Navy, they did it in broad daylight -- and everybody there knows they did it. But this assault on our navy is ignored while they talk about the second attack, which may have been a false alarm. When they did the movie about the Stockdales, they opened with a scene of the night incident, which may not have been an attack. But they never refer to the fact that there was a day attack.
They just repeat the partial story again and again, even in places like Dear Abby. Here is the headline on a Dear Abby column: Why nobody discusses Vietnam. Then we find out that President Lyndon Johnson announced that the US destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy had been attacked. Some Americans doubted that the attack had even occurred. It has never been confirmed. That simply isnt so. Here is a recent op-ed in the LA Times: President Johnson lied to Congress that our warships in the Gulf of Tonkin were attacked by a North Vietnamese gunboat. Which, of course, is wrong. Earlier this year, we had CBSs Jim Costa talking about the unconfirmed reports of attacks on American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin. I called him, up by the way. We had a quite a discussion and he finally backed off just a little. He acknowledged that maybe he had not done his homework. In fact, while I was talking to him, he reached for a history book -- but couldnt come up with a reference to back his claim. Obviously, he couldnt because it didnt exist. Here is an April article in the New York Times saying that the parallels for today are proliferating: Gulf of Tonkin attack, Meet non-existent W.M.D. They keep using it.
Bill Moyers, just about six weeks ago, used it again. He repeated the false claim while John Dean was on his show. Now, Moyers gotta know better. He was working at the White House at the time. Yet, now he reports the false information that there was no attack on the Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin . It has become accepted. I am sure that if we dont get it turned around, eventually all our history books will record that there was no attack in the Gulf of Tonkin.
I mentioned another example of false history during the Q and A the other day, but there are new people here, so let me repeat it. I heard Walter Cronkite, on television, present incorrect information as fact. And, to make sure I heard correctly, I later went and got the transcript to make sure I had it right. Walter Cronkite was interviewed by Bryan Lamb on C-SPAN and when he was asked why he had changed his mind and came out publicly against the war in Vietnam , he said it was because he went to Vietnam after the beginning of the Tet offensive to find out the situation for himself. He claimed that he discovered that the Communists could go anywhere they wanted and, in fact, 19 VC had held the US Embassy for six hours. Of course, they had never put a foot inside the Embassy for one minute, let alone holding it for six hours. They were all killed on the grass outside.
An interesting side light: The teacher of a high school class that was vying for a national history prize, with Vietnam as the subject, asked me to come in and talk to the kids -- to give them a different view of Vietnam than the norm. One of the things I told them about was Cronkites misreporting. These kids were real good. They were interviewing all kinds of people and managed to get Walter Cronkite to agree to an interview by phone, They got him on the line -- with a speaker phone, I guess --and asked him questions until one kid challenged him: We had a guy who came to our class and told us what you said on C-SPAN. And, he repeated the story I had told the class. Walter Cronkite ended the interview. He not only refused to comment on what I had said, but he wouldn't even continue the interview with the kids. He said he didn't have any more time.
Another example of changed history is the attack on Kim Phuc, the little girl who was hit with napalm. Time Magazine said that the photo has become the exemplar picture that shows the horror of American air attacks on civilians. And of course, the fact that there was not an American airplane in the sky that day doesn't seem to deter them at all. There were no American airplanes involved when that girl was wounded, but the propaganda still goes on and on. It didn't stop at the end of the war. How many of you recently saw the guy, his name was Plummer, -- I think he is from Maryland who claimed that he was the ground controller who sent the airplane to bomb that little girl? There were three separate documentaries about him, her and the bombing. CNN did one. A&E did one. And so did ABC Nightline. All three of them did the story of Captain Plummer. Plummer hasnt been able to hold a job. Plummer can't keep a marriage together. Plummer can't put one foot in front of the other because he cant sleep at night. All because he ordered the strike that hurt that little girl. All three documentaries showed this guys whole sad story. In the finale, each one showed him at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Kim Phuc, now a young lady, who has been living in Canada since she defected from Communist control and jumped off a plane up there, had come down to a ceremony at the Wall. They showed her giving a talk, with this guy standing in the audience. Of course, the obvious happened. She said that if she was to meet the man responsible for wounding her, she would forgive him. Plummer was pushed to center stage and went to her and confessed, I am the one. The tears flowed like wine. The man said he could finally rest after all of those years of pain and agony. I turned to my wife the first time I saw the scene and I said: Thats bullshit. I didn't have time to do the research to prove it, but, fortunately, there was a retired officer, I think he was a Major, who saw the same thing I did. He took the trouble to check it out at Jefferson Barracks. Plummer had nothing to do with any air strikes that hit that little girl or anybody else. He was a total fraud! The major called up, I think, the AP and the Baltimore Sun, and two reporters tracked the guy down and exposed him.
But the story never dies. I was talking to journalism students at a college in Spokane and brought it up as an example of how the media just uses some stories to make a point. They do not bother to find out the truth. They just go on carrying the story. What interested me was that most of the kids in the class, and their teacher, nodded their heads in agreement with a girl who said: Well, you have to show those kind of pictures as often as you can because they make the point. What bothers me more than what she said is that these young people have graduated and some went into journalism. To them, truth doesn't mean anything if you can make a point.
Of all the false history generated, perhaps the saddest is what the media, both entertainment media and news media, has done to Vietnam veterans -- the terrible image that is out there. The most recent confirmation is the poll carried in VFW Magazine last year in which they had surveyed 18 to 35-year-old Americans. Keep in mind, these are the children of the people who had fought in Vietnam . They were to choose one of two statements that best describe a Vietnam veteran. One description was that they are generally successful people who have made positive contributions in their post war lives. The other was that Vietnam veterans are emotionally or psychologically troubled. 11% -- about 1 out of 10 -- described Vietnam veterans as generally successful people, etc. 71% chose emotionally or psychologically troubled people. Those are our kids; our own children who think that. What a horror.
By the way, I want to throw in my opinion about what history is going to show about Vietnam . I think, without any question of a doubt -- and this just goes along with what other people have said here -- that the history books are going to show that Vietnam was one battle in a very large Cold War. Our leaders did not fight it very well, but you know what? -- We held them up for 15 years. And, that 15 year holdup had a tremendous impact on the Cold War. A personal note: In 1965, I did a 3-month tour of South America. I went to every country in South America except for the three Guianas. I went to 6 or 7 cities in Brazil, a couple in Argentina, several of them in Peru and so on. I went to every one of the major countries, and looked primarily at two things: One, Communist influence on the campuses and Two, guerrilla movements. There wasnt a country down there that did not have the beginning of a guerrilla movement. People join winners and there is no question in my mind that the Che Guevara strategy would have taken over had we left Vietnam early. Not only would we have had the problem of communist takeovers in Thailand, Indonesia and other Asian countries, but you would have had, as Che Guevara called for, One, Ten, a Hundred Vietnams.
I am going to show you a film to finish off my stint. But first, I need to answer a question that a couple of people have asked: You were just a reporter in Vietnam. Were you ever in the service? Yes, I was in the Navy during World War II. I dont want to deal with opinion, but prefer to point out three facts. Fact number one: There were thousands of battles fought in World War II. Fact number two: I only fought in a single battle, the battle of Okinawa. And, fact number three: After the only battle that I fought in, the enemy surrendered. Those are the facts, and you can make your own judgment. You cannot, I suppose, rule out coincidence.
Before I show a film that I think is going to interest everybody here, I want to mention Accuracy In Media. Dolf Droge and I both have been with AIM since the beginning of time. Weve been together since they invented mud -- the day that people scooped up some dirt and threw water on it. What a hell of a memory! We watched them invent mud and met for the first time on the same day. I have been with AIM for 22 years. . . .
Dolf Droge: I started in 68.
Charles Wiley: If anybody wants to get involved in the overall fight against media bias, the whole thing, not just Vietnam, AIM is a great place to go. I just talked to my home office and can pass on an offer that many of you will find of interest. There is a tape that we made some years ago, put together by Peter Rollins, as an answer to the 13-week series about Vietnam they had on PBS. It is a two-hour tape rebutting a lot of the wrong information in the PBS documentary. We got good old Charlton Heston to do the narration, so this is a really good presentation. PBS put one hour of it on the air. The Fairness Doctrine at PBS is to run thirteen hours from one side and one hour from the other. That is only 13 to 1, so they balanced it by adding a round table discussion after our hour to talk about what was wrong with it. I mean, these guys have no concept.
My home office just told me that we have only about 20 of these tapes left. Weve distributed nearly all those we had printed. They may reprint more in the future if there is a surge in demand, but we cant guarantee it. So, I was told I can take orders for only 20 of them. They are $20 bucks apiece, which includes shipping and the postage. If anybody wants to get a copy, give me a check for 20 dollars, made out to A-I-M. Make sure that your address is on the check and we will send you one of these tapes. I think you will find it interesting.
AIM also has a speakers bureau. Dolf and I are both part of it and, I guess, we are the senior guys on the roster. If you want to get a speaker, talk to either of us.
also have a newsletter that comes out twice a month and zeroes in
on stories that our staff in
Unidentified Audience Member: [Unintelligible] Are you going to show Martin Luther Kings march?
Charles Wiley: The what?
Unidentified Audience Member: Martin Luther King marching against the war in Vietnam?
Charles Wiley: No. I am going to show you a film about one parade and then talk briefly about another. The general picture in America is that during the war in Vietnam, the American people turned their backs on the troops in Vietnam. The general picture in America is that there were antiwar demonstrators on every street corner -- and there was virtually nobody to answer back. The view in American, by probably 99% of our people, is that we did not have a parade to welcome back our men from Vietnam. I think probably everybody here knows that. We didnt have a parade to welcome our men back and it is a shame on the country. We have a national guilt feeling about it.
Well, there is one thing wrong with what I just said. It didnt happen that way. The biggest demonstrations during the war in Vietnam were pro-GI demonstrations. I am going to repeat that. Im not speaking by mistake. The biggest demonstrations during the war in Vietnam were pro-GI demonstrations. I am going to show you a film of the third longest parade in the history of the United States of America. A quarter of a million people marched for nine hours, curb-to-curb, at double time. You dont have to believe me, I am going to put it up there for you to see. This parade is called the Support Our Men in Vietnam Parade. It dwarfs the Martin Luther King Parade he was talking about. It dwarfs anything the anti-war movement ever put together.
Charles Wiley: This is the parade that the media says did not happen; this is one of the many pro-GI parades that didnt take place. I want you to take a good look. You can go from one end of this country to the other, as I have done, and look at local papers of the next day -- and you will not find a word about this parade anywhere! It was not carried on any of the networks. WPIX, New York City, took the film you are seeing. They carried it for one hour. If not for WPIX, thered be no film of this great event for history.
It was started by a Post of the American Legion out on Long Island. Up until that point, the antiwar people seemed to be everywhere and had been getting all the publicity -- and a handful of veterans decided to force the news media to cover the Silent Majority by putting on a parade. But, nobody knew anything about organizing or public relations. After the parade was announced for May 13, 1967, Legion leaders decided that they couldnt allow it to fail. I was brought into it because I used to write for America Legion Magazine and was asked to give some advice. That turned out to mean working 20-hour days for about a month helping to put the show together. Now, as you watch, note the enthusiasm of the marchers in this parade compared to other parades.
This was done with virtually no money by an all-volunteer staff -- and it was done in only six weeks time from beginning of the idea to the parade. We couldn't even move the headquarters from a veterans post in the sticks to Manhattan, New York City, until less than a month before the event.
How many of you knew that there was a parade like this backing up our people in Vietnam ? I am going to let the thing run about 15 minutes for you, so you get some idea what it looked like. Anybody can ask questions while we do it.
Charles Wiley [To questioner]: No, nobody. There were parades like this all over the country that were ignored. 125,000 people marched in Indianapolis. They had the longest parade in the history of the state of New Jersey in Newark. These events were covered where they happened -- but ignored by the networks and by the news services.
Look at these marchers. They are just individual people, groups of friends. This was put together by volunteers in only a few weeks! Notice the ages how many are young people. Imagine. This went on for nine hours! Some people waited over six hours in the staging area for their turn to march.
Charles Wiley: Note the various signs -- Albanian-Americans, Hungarian-Americans. The Knights of Columbus and the Masons marching side by side. The list goes on and on. The unions were there big-time. Listen to the announcer run down their numbers: 6,000 carpenters, 4,000 brick layers. You know, they were all there.
A very interesting thing on the numbers. Up until this parade -- May 13th 1967 -- the New York Times had accepted every parade estimate ever given by police departments and parade organizers. For this parade, two new things happened. First, the New York City Police, as was normal, gave out their estimate. They said a quarter of a million people marched. It was carried by AP and UPI. But, then the Mayor ordered the police to withdraw the figure! And, for the first time ever, the New York Police Department did not have an official estimate of the number of people in a parade. Even before that, the New York Times ignore d the original police figure because, so help me, for the first --and only time -- in the history of the New York Times, they had a reporter with a clicker who counted as these people were going by. This guy was clicking for nine hours! Now you tell me if anybody could conceivably have counted these people. They came up with a figure of, I think, 125,000.
Yeah, that was Chuck Connors on the screen. The left previously had a demonstration in Central Park, during which they burned an American flag. As part of our event, we had a couple of guys parachute into the park illegally, as it turned out and land, with a new flag, at the same place where they had burned the flag. The cops gave them a ticket and then congratulated them. Chuck Connors brought the flag to the grandstand and gave it to Cardinal Spellman.
Many marchers had in common that they were neighbors who came from the same section of New York City . This group, holding hand-made signs, is from Washington Heights, uptown New York. Many, like this, just got together to march in the parade. Can you imagine if our media had covered these kinds of events for the President to see instead of watching Walter Cronkite. We tried our best to make that happen but the news media wouldnt do its job.
By the way, the guy who is doing the narration is Jack McCarthy, who is probably the most famous of all parade describers. Every March, for perhaps the first 25 or 35 years of television, he did the St. Patricks Day Parade. He knew every Roman Catholic activist and their history. He worked this parade as a partisan to show his support for our GIs.
The beauty of this parade is the obvious spontaneity, the excitement, the homemade signs. Have you ever seen a parade where the marchers had that level of enthusiasm? Look at that scene for a mile up Fifth Avenue. Just look at that! Could anyone say that New Yorkers didn't support the men and women in our armed forces?
I will tell you something very interesting that happened. The parade was led by police on horses to clear the way. Next were our honorary Parade Marshals, the biggest group of Congressional Medal of Honor winners to ever march in any parade. I think we had 26 of them in a line stretched across the street. Behind them came the volunteers who put the whole thing together, most of whom were young women who worked their nine-to-five jobs as stenographers, secretaries, receptionists, etc. and then come to work at the Commodore Hotel from 5:30 until 9:00 or 10:00 at night many of them several nights a week plus week-ends. I made damned sure that these volunteers had the best seats on the reviewing stand, even if it meant that a whole bunch of politicians and second string VIPs had to sit to the side somewhere.
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen was when the volunteers went up into the grandstand and could look at the parade stretched for many blocks on Fifth Avenue. For the first time they were able to see the scope of their success the show of support for our troops that they had helped generate. A sea of American flags over a massive gathering of humanity. The deafening roar of excited people venting their patriotism and love for our GIs. And, every one of my girls, overwhelmed with emotion, burst into tears of joy and pride. It was an incredible scene.
I am going to let the tape play for a few more minutes. I want you to get some feel of the numbers and the atmosphere.
Charles Wiley: I guess that kind of gives you the idea of what went on for nine hours. One final interesting thing about the parade: When I first began organizing it, I went to Walter Engel, head of Public Affairs at WPIX, a local New York City TV station, and said, Walter, I would love to have this thing filmed and send a copy to General Westmoreland to show to our troops in Vietnam. He said, Sure. I think I can probably get Jack McCarthy to do the narration. Yeah, no problem. But, he called me a couple weeks later this is a sad commentary on our country -- and said, Charlie, I have a problem. I cannot get a sponsor. Weve pulled out all the plugs, but cannot get anybody to sponsor this, none of the sponsors that we normally go to. Nobody wants to sponsor this. He explained: I can get by on three sponsors. I can give you the whole hour if I can get three sponsors to just cover a few minutes each. But I cannot get the station to give me an hour without a single sponsor. Can you find me some sponsors? -- Please. Well, I tried, and couldnt get a single business to give us sponsorship. But, Thank God, I was finally able to get it sponsored by labor unions! The International Longshoremens Association, the Maritime Union and the Seafarers Union ended up being the sponsors of this program, so it could be sent to Vietnam and put on the record that this wonderful parade actually existed.
Now, let me tell you about one other parade, the parade that most Americans think didnt happen -- and then I will take any questions. Everyone knows there was no parade to welcome our men back from Vietnam. There were no brass bands to greet them. Right? But, theres one big problem with those statements. Theyre not true.
The day that the war ended for the United States -- and some of you can even remember the exact date, I am sure was March the 31st 1973. That is the day that the last Americans in uniform, other than the Marine guards at the Embassy, were taken out of Vietnam . That is the day we were supposed to get our last POW returned. That is the day we abandoned Indo-China. And, on this day, unknown to the overwhelming majority of our people, one thousand servicemen, all whom had volunteered and fought in Vietnam, all of whom had volunteered to give up a weekend to represent their service, marched a two mile parade route through cheering, flag waving Americans. The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard were there to be saluted on a day that was officially called Home With Honor Day. However, what happened after they completed the route-of-march made it one of the greatest homecoming parades in the history of the world. At the end of the route, the thousand servicemen sat in the grandstand while 150,000 people welcomed our men back from Vietnam by marching the two mile parade route behind them. When is the last time you saw a parade in which the military sat and watched as the civilians marched by them? They tell you that there were no brass bands to welcome our men home. How about 120 brass bands to welcome them home? Probably the biggest massing of bands in history! We are talking of March 31st 1973, the day the war ended. How many of you knew that there was a parade to welcome back our men from Vietnam?
Charles Wiley to someone in the audience: Well, that may be the problem. The reason that you dont know about it is that it was almost completely ignored by the news media. ABC network gave it 28 seconds of coverage on a Saturday night newscast -- and never mentioned it again. CBS and NBC didnt cover it at all. Newspapers across the country, except for the place it took place, totally blacked it out. The gentleman asked for the parades location -- and the answer may be the medias excuse for not covering it. They may have felt that it was too difficult to reach. It was held in a little port city south of here. It is called New York City. You can see how hard it would be for the networks to cover something in such an out-of-the-way place as that. The parade was on a side street called Broadway through a little section of town that we locals refer to, quaintly, as Times Square.
Now, think about it. One thousand returning serviceman from Vietnam marched through the heart of Times Square at high noon, followed by a 150,000 people with a 120 brass bands, and CBS did not send a camera unit, four blocks, from their headquarters to cover it. NBC did not send a camera unit, two blocks, to cover it. Just imagine what would have changed in this country if they would have given that parade the kind of coverage that it deserved. It would have healed this country. It would have changed the image of the Vietnam veteran and the image of his fellow Americans to the veteran. But the media chose not to help get us back together.
By the way, you can go to any good library, get the April 1, 1973 New York Times, the day after the parade, and confirm everything that Ive said. To give credit to the Times, you wouldnt have to look far for the story. It was carried on the front page with a big picture of the parade. You have to give them credit but, dont get carried away and give them too much credit. They would have had a hell of a time ignoring 150,000 people and 120 brass bands marching in front of their office. If you get the early edition, you wont have the numbers because it went to print while the parade was still underway. If you get the late edition, you will get the number 150,000.
I want to close today by reading you a description of that parade that appeared in the Fort Dix weekly newspaper.
A final aside: I spoke at Fort Dix recently and mentioned this article to a reporter for the same paper. He flipped out when he saw it.
I will read this and then turn it over to my buddy over here. This is dated April 6, the first issue after the event. It is headlined The Parade.
They had the Home With Honor parade in New York City last Saturday. 1,000 servicemen, including 240 soldiers from Fort Dix, marched up Broadway, paused for a silent prayer at Father Duffys statue in Times Square, and then continued on to Central Park West. Once there, they became grand marshals of the parade, entered the stands and reviewed the parade of upwards of 150,000 firemen, policemen, veterans organizations, hardhats and just plain people. The parade was sponsored by The Home With Honor Committee to honor those servicemen and women who served in Vietnam. As hard news goes, thats about all there is -- but there is a lot more to the story. There were good vibrations in New York Saturday -- spontaneous displays of warmth and appreciation everywhere -- between the marchers and the crowd and the servicemen. As Staff Sergeant David Williams, the Army keyman put it, Today the people of New York showed that they love us.
All of the servicemen were volunteers, 240 men from each service. Not the you, you and you volunteer, but real volunteers. They were Vietnam veterans, proud of their service, who chose the parade over having the day off. It had to be one of the most unusual parades ever. When is the last time you saw military men on the reviewing stand watching civilians march by? And when ever did you see group after group of paraders stop to cheer the reviewing party and be cheered in return? Some anonymous hardhat in the parade tossed his hat to one of the soldiers -- a souvenir -- and by parades end, most of the servicemen had caught a hardhats hard hat. There were the aging veterans of the 369th Infantry Regiment -- an all-black unit -- evoking memories of the big war and how things were then. Flags, flags, flags everywhere. Majorettes, pom-pom girls, snappy salutes, hot dogs.
The Home With Honor Committee said, The men and women who have served the United States during the war in Vietnam have come home with honor. And history will not record that there were no brass bands to greet them.
But, damn it, the media was able to black out this parade -- and the history books do say that there were no brass bands. Damn it, thats not true. A hell of lot of people worked hard and put it on the line so that thered be brass bands, but the media managed to keep that fact from our country -- from you and nearly all Americans.
But the truth about what happened was described in the Fort Dix article:
The brass bands were there, and the men felt honored. First Sergeant James E. Hunt, 532nd Military Police Company, said, It was the best thing that could have happened in honor of the people who fought in Vietnam and came home, the ones who died, and those who were POWs. Specialist 5 John E. Morgan, Medical Company, thought it was a beautiful parade. Ive never been honored like this before in my life, said Sergeant First Class Sheldon Jones, 759th Military Police Battalion. I cried when the paraplegic veterans came by in wheelchairs. I was impressed because the whole thing seemed so genuine.
Marine Staff Sergeant Robert L. Calderwood, US Marine Corps OCS, Quantico, Virginia, expressed the feelings of most of the military guests: I thought the parade was outstanding. I was surprised and overwhelmed by the appreciation the people of New York City displayed. I remember how I felt overseas when I heard about all the demonstrations and all the negative publicity. Everything seemed to be negative then. But you come back to something like this and it doesnt matter what happened or what has been said in the past. You forget all about that and enjoy the moment. Its tremendous.
I thank you very much for being a very attentive audience.
Dolf Droge: Thank you, Charlie. This just gives you an idea of the focus of Accuracy In Media as an organization because we are continually looking at the inaccuracy of media and we are trying to get the American people to be their own watchdog. And when you look at the war in Vietnam, you have the perfect example. Media had to be on display just as much as the participants in the effort to try to save and defend democracy in South Vietnam, and when you look at that, I remember that the Johnson administration looked at the countries in Southeast Asia; Kennedy made it clear that Eisenhower had told him there is no place else in Southeast Asia that will stand to block the expansion of Communist China and Communist North Vietnam. Thailand fought three days in World War II. They surrendered to the Japanese and they became automatically run by a puppet which they installed, so that the Prime Minister fled to the countryside and every night, once a week every night, they could get together and plot. Thailand, after that three days, received the Declaration of War from the United States and it said you have joined the enemy, you have joined the Japanese. When the war was over, we had the discourtesy to bring that up to the Thai government. The Thai Government said, We dont have any record of a Declaration of War. Well, we sent you one. Oh, wait. That declaration, you put it in Thai? Yes, we sent it in the Thai language. We went to our language school people and we said we want to draft the Declaration of War against Thailand. And they said, Thats the paper. What paper? The paper we filed long ago, we couldnt read it. The Thai was so bad that nobody could make out what you were saying. So, you mean, you, in effect, never got our Declaration of War? No. And then they smiled broadly and said, And speaking for the King, I can say doesnt that remove all the problem? Of course, they collaborated with the Japanese, totally. The King was supported by the Prime Minister going to the countryside and becoming an underground fighter against the Japanese and the other puppet Prime Minister was working there for the King, but the Thai attitude is bo pen yang, as they would say in Laos. It means, it doesnt matter. So that is what Eisenhower found when he looked at this. Again, Eisenhower was fixated on Laos. He saw what was happening in Laos. He was determined that he was going to send the Lao Hill tribes north of Hanoi to mix with kith and kin and give Hanoi a little dose of its own medicine, but that plan was Eisenhower, as he was departing, and that is where coming in to the White House, John Kennedy picked up that same virus of National Security implications for Southeast Asia.
Now, if you look at the Press going into this situation, you would have to taken into account that the Press believed that the Viet Cong were real protest movement in the South. Not organized by Hanoi, but a real protest of people that had a different view, and that was not true at all. It was a puppet organization. It was created in Hanoi. It was manipulated by every bit of support it could get, but it never represented the people, and this was the difference. We couldnt find another place in Southeast Asia to stand, so we were going to stand with the only people that would fight to retain their own heritage of being Viets and the Viets dont like their neighbors. When you live under a perpetually pregnant China, you get offers like Ho Chi Minh got during the war. If you need us, we can send you 300,000 Chinese and Ho just turned around to go with that. We dont need that. You bet, because you can't get rid of the people then that would come to help you. You see, is this difficult for a Press person to know before they go out there? No, but they arrive on the scene and they are looking at a war that in their Press Room is dubbed a terrible atrocity, something that the United States should never have affiliated itself with. Well, here you got it. You got two Vietnams, you got 20 million in the North. Of the 20 million, 6% are in the Communist Party of North Vietnam, that is your enemy. You can damage that 6%, you can get reaction. If you dont damage that 6%, they dont care how many people you kill. In the South, 17 million people. And the government is not perfect, but the villagers dont like Northerners. They came from the North, fleeing the North after Ho Chi Minh went through his incredible rise to power. After all, this is the man who came to Brooklyn, New York, lived in Harlem, after he had been to France, after he left his country when he was 18 and his dad had been arrested, his dad was a Chinese Mandarin-type official and to be put in jail that way; that soured Ho and he took off and he went to Marseille as a cabin boy on a ship. He changed his name 21 times in his life before he took the name Ho Chi Minh. This should not be too big of a surprise or too small a flag to raise on the issue of who was this man? Well, he was someone who felt deeply that his country should not be ruled by France. Now, this is that root that is real in North Vietnam, but Ho is another kind of person because he starts out, yes, I leave my country, I dont want to serve in the draft that is coming and he goes to France. He goes up to Paris and reads the French Revolution. In Vietnam, the size of a pocketbook would represent the French Revolution in literary terms, but he saw the real French Revolution library shelves in Paris and he read it to understand what the French themselves espoused. So, then he realized they are drafting Vietnamese; they are drafting them into the war and, of course, the war is explained very frankly, the Germans are attacking France. That made the Vietnamese say to each other, the Germans cannot be all bad, they are attacking France. Why should we fight for France against the Germans when we hope the Germans drive France to the brink of defeat? So they said, We dont understand. You dont understand what? How you fight a war. Well, you fight a war by going to the French Army. We can't do that. You can't do that? No, because we dont understand what war is. You dont understand what war is? No. So we can help you if you let us build structures. They did build structures. The French immediately bought the line. You are hopeless then, you are a fish out of water here in France. Yes. So, when we put you in the army, you are a construction battalion. Yes. They build all of those structures in the field for World War I on the side of France. When Hitler was gassed in World War I, he feared he would never get his sight back. He was in a constructed hospital, constructed by the Vietnamese; on the wall was a Swastika. It was the Buddha Swastika. Hilters eyes cleared from the gas, he saw the Swastika, he had a vision. This very brave Corporal, who always stayed a Corporal, because he couldnt be of a higher rank and be a messenger and run your message service under fire. Hitler was a very brave soldier, but he got that vision in the Swastika and then he goes on to the madness of Nazism, which he creates, but the French, they like Ho Chi Minh. Were still searching. How do we handle these Viets? What do they want? Well, Ho wanted out. He didnt want to be a drafted in that war. He got on a ship and came to Brooklyn, New York, and he went to Harlem. He lived in Harlem, then he went to Brooklyn, then he went to Philadelphia, then he read the Declaration of Independence. The guy was setting himself up. He wanted to know what are the different political systems in the world and that was Ho Chi Minh there as he now prepares after several years, two years, to go back to take a ring side seat and watch what is happening and the war in Europe was coming to a close and he is in Britain, and he is a chefs assistant in a restaurant with the famous French chef Escoffier. And he is in London, so he read the Magna Carta. So he understood the fight with King John, so when he understood all these other details of British history, he was revved up by what he saw, and then he went back to France and became a photographers retoucher, advertising Nguyen Ai Quoc. Nguyen Ai Quoc can help you out if you like to look good in you pictures, come to me.
And then he learns Woodrow Wilson was headed for Paris. World War I was over, good. He dodged that one. Now Woodrow Wilson is coming to Paris, Wilson has fourteen points. Ho Chi Minh, now under the name of Nguyen Ai Quoc, is the founder of the French Communist Party, but with Mr. Wilson, before he joins the French Communist Party or creates it, he goes to Woodrow Wilsons door in Paris, and he says I have point number fifteen for Mr. Wilson. And Wilsons doorman has no finesse about who is this Vietnamese, why is he here, why is he bothering me? I want to talk to Mr. Wilson. You know, we are here, we are dealing with problems, French are big problems in one sense, but they are diplomatically here. Who is this man? They think he is a kook. Up to this time as Nguyen Ai Quoc is waiting to see Mr. Wilson, Mr. Wilson gatekeeper refuses to let him in. He stands all day in the top hat and tails, a rented outfit, all day into the midnight hours, and the next year he helps co-found the French Communist Party and we lose our chance to work with this young man, because he has found a disciple-like role for himself in Moscow. He is at the Lenin Institute for the Toilers of the East school. He goes out from there, he goes out to China. He was in the Russian Consulate in Canton. It is run by Borodin, the famous Soviet diplomat. This young man has really learned the lesson in a Stalinist society and a Leninist society, so he works for Borodin and Borodin says, I want you to be my man in China. What you want me to do? I want you to bring these Vietnamese here to study and if we find Vietnamese that wont join our cause, I want to sell them to the French for gold by maintaining an underground railroad kind of information service saying, coming your way will be this guy who looks this way because he is trained up here, but he is not joining the Communist movement. Now that was the treachery that Nguyen Ai Quoc, his real name, participated in. That is Ho Chi Minhs past. He sold these people for French gold. He invited the leading patriot of Vietnam in all the struggles against the French and this was Phan Boi Chau. Phan Boi Chau had been fighting the French, organizing against the French, wanting independence for Vietnam. Phan Boi Chau was invited to Shanghai by Ho Chi Minh. He came and was directed to a house that he thought would be a house where people would be Vietnamese exiles talking with him. Instead it was French International territory in that Shanghai international settlement portion of the city, and when you walk in that house, you are in Paris and the French put Phan Boi Chau in chains and took him down to Vietnam and he was in chains when the Japanese came and they attacked and they freed him from French control and imprisonment. When the Japanese attacked in their war in 1940 and we had a search for people that could help our pilots that were going down in World War II, and so we turned to people and said, Where can we find people that know something about it? Well, you ought to try the Chinese prison. The Chinese prison in China? Yes, you are an OSS guy; you can go in. Chiang Kai Sheks our buddy. Go in and see what they could have because they took a lot of people and put them in that prison. Now officially, Ho Chi Minh had died, he had died in Hong Kong. He tried to get into China, they caught him going across the border and the British guard and the British Embassy there was holding him and the French were coming to guillotine him, take him back to Paris and kill him and he was there talking to the jailer, I will never again then get to go to London and go to Hyde Park and enjoy the free speech section of Hyde Park and he played every chord on the piano for this guy, this vulnerable British diplomat. And the guy said, It is just a shame to think that the French are going to come down here and behead you back in Paris on the guillotine and, by God, I am not going to stand for it. And that was the time that Ho knew that he had another life because the guy said, I am going to tell them you died, I am going to tell him you died in the fever and I buried in you a potters grave and I wont identify where. Now he is already a KGB agent. He is already working with the consulate there in China, but now he is getting this free pass of, as he puts it, this British jailer took me to the docks, told me to get on a ship and get the hell out of town, and I did. And he contacted Moscow immediately; I have the greatest cover anybody in the NKVD ever had. I am dead. Please put out my obituary, put out my obituary in Moscow in the Izvestia and put out my obituary in Paris in the French newspaper for the Communist followers. And he was dead and later the OSS finds this guy in the Chinese prison. He is dying of malaria, pneumonia and tuberculosis and they recommend, well, if you are looking for somebody who knows Indo-Chinese jungles to get your pilots out of those jungles, we got a guy in here. Well, what is his name? I dont know. I mean he started to call himself Ho Chi Minh. We didnt arrest him on that basis. He had a couple of other aliases, but he is in there now, he is in there and we can take you to him and if you want him we can release him because Chiang Kai Shek says you are okay. And we got him. When he came out he said, I would like to work for you, I remember my time in the United States, but I need two things from you if I work for you. I need an autographed photograph from Churchill saying how much Churchill admires my work in this war and I need an autographed picture from Franklin D. Roosevelt that says how much he values my participation and your effort in this war against the Japanese. And the guy thinks, This is a basket case, but may be this will work. We will get that for him. And he wanted this, so when they sat around the fire and someone would say to him, you know, when the firelight flickers in a certain way, you look like that man called Nguyen Ai Quoc who killed so many people as a Communist agent. Oh, I am not, no, no. Roosevelt knows me. Churchill knows me. Nguyen Ai Quoc died. He is dead; he was reported dead in Hong Kong. I think they put him in the potters grave. Yeah, well, all the Americans trust me, the British trust me, why dont you trust me? And then he asked for a little favor from us when the war was over and he asked us to fly over his ceremony saluting the end of the war. So our plane flew over, we were going to go over anyway, we were going to take pictures of it. And he said, he pointed to the sky, for those who do not trust me and those who do not know me, you can see in the sky those who support me and it was the American plane. Pretty good story for a young man coming out of Operation Bootstrap, leaving his country to not serve in the draft and getting into the United States and learning enough about us and then going back, but a dedicated Soviet agent who by now was expert. Phan Boi Chau was released by the Japanese when they came in and found him in chains under house arrest in Vietnam. When the Japanese took that country, that position as they occupied Thailand in the next door, they brought him back to freedom. Now, this is the chapter behind the man we face today, this is the chapter behind the Vietnam War we fought, but notice, 21 times this guy changes his name, his 22nd name is Ho Chi Minh. Jane Fonda says, I love Ho Chi Minh. I asked the Jane Fonda people when I went out to Los Angeles, she wouldnt come to the event, but I asked them, You know, how do you feel about Ho Chi Minh? We love Ho Chi Minh. Which Ho Chi Minh? And I went through the name changes. They didnt know, they disputed me. I said, Well, read a book, read a book called From Colonialism to Communism: A case study of North Vietnam by Hoang Van Chi. He will tell you, he is Vietnamese. And they want independence, and they want freedom, but they also want to be free of the French.
Now see, all this was history, piled up, waiting. And in Southeast Asia, what we do is, if you dont stand in Vietnam, there is no place else to stand. So you may as well withdraw. Well, then we stood in Vietnam and John Kennedy picked up that principle and had that principle really going and then Lyndon Johnson walks into the scene after Dallas, and that is a very sad moment in our history, and Johnson is coping with a war that he really believed that it was an effort that Diem could lead. He came, I was out there, I was escorting Lady Bird Johnson and a couple of the Kennedy daughters over to the Palace. I remember, though, I came in the Palace. Madame Nhu met us and then she said to a man in a white coat whose back was turned to us, You! Get out of here. That was President Diem that she just ordered out of the room. No wonder they called her the Dragon Lady and she showed us all the artist collection in the national museum and all that, but wow! You got a problem here. We inherited that problem, but we also had a chance, because what did the Vietnamese hate the most? They hated the thought that somebody from the North would come down and organize their life on a Communist basis. They had the Viet basis. You cannot put the Communist basis on top of the Viet basis and make it harmony. You can destroy the Viet and put the Communist in its place, you could destroy the Communist and put Viet in its place. You cannot have a compromise, otherwise, politically in Vietnam. So thats where our policy started. Now, it was not a perfect policy by any means, but it was a lot better than the alternative. When you look, then, at our own policy, understood by our people very little, but showing them the fact and Presidents saying, we have to stand against this; this is just Communist China moving down its influence; we support Thailand, though Thailand wouldnt fight, we support Laos, but Laos is empty; in the sense that its territory that is controlled by two rival half-brothers and the King, Sisavang Vong, is dead. You could say then after the analysis was over, the one place you can stand, the one place that you can use to defend potential democracy in Southeast Asia is right there in Vietnam, and there aint no other place. Now the Press certainly would not be unaware of this history that I have cited. Good reporters come out and look at the problem. They are mesmerized by the palace and Diem, but they look at the problem and they have to understand down from the North came the Southerners taken to the North for training. I mean the whole operation was Ho Chi Minh announcing his revolution and killing people. If you owned anything in North Vietnam when Ho came to that decision that this is where we have to reorganize, we call it land reform time. If you owned a buffalo they killed you. If you owned a shop, they killed you. If you owned anything that was personal, they killed you. Why? Private property was an obscene thought in a Communist country being developed by Ho Chi Minh. The target of Ho Chi Minhs goal would be -- take over the South. Why? Because they went their way. They had problems with Cambodia, they had problems with Laos on their borders, but they knew we dont want to go the way of the Lao Dong Party. Ho knew Diem was a nationalist. Cardinal Spellman sheltered him in the Maryknoll Institute in Pennsylvania. He brought Mr. Ngo Dinh Diem to the table of Joseph P. Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy had his boys gathered around the table. Well Jack, this man is a leader. He is hiding out here now, but he is going back. This is an early incarnation of Diem in the United States, and the Kennedys were totally behind him and thats what then is so ironic about what happened in Vietnam. You had a Catholic Vietnam, you had a Buddhist Vietnam, and you had a Hoa Hao Vietnam and you had all of these tribal people up where Mike Benge lived with the Montagnards. It was a crazy quilt of different cultures, but it was their own crazy quilt and it did work. Unless you brought in an implacable force, which set up its standard and said, we are the only party and that was the Lao Dong Party, and that was the dividing point, because it was Ho Chi Minhs party.
So people would go with Diem, like Cardinal Spellman would go with Diem, knowing Diems weaknesses. It did help to have Lansdale there. He called Lansdale his adopted son. Lansdale called him papa. So when you start this story, you start with the United States of America and the President like John F. Kennedy who has been briefed by Eisenhower and knows, my one conviction is that I have got to keep Southeast Asia from becoming the major part of our policy, because we got the Soviet Union. Thats a big enough enemy and we are in the nuclear race. And during that race, I want to point out to you that one of our Generals wrote a book. He was a retired General, and he wrote in the book this phrase: The United States, as a military power, has now targeted the home of every member of the Soviet nomenklatura. Now, the nomenklatura is a nice phrase for all the guys in the Party that are living rich. The nomenklatura would represent what we call, the Cabinet of the President, the top officials in Washington, in our way of saying it would be the people who run the town. And that nomenklatura now were under direct retaliation because if the balloon goes up then the missiles fly, the first missiles we fire will be at the homes of everybody in the leadership of the Soviet Union. This terrified the Soviet Generals and we mean this seriously. So they had a whole different appreciation of what John Kennedy was setting out as policy, and that moved right into Kennedy and then Johnson. Now Johnson picks up after Dallas and the tragedy, and Lyndon Johnson picks up the mantle and he wants to out Kennedy Kennedy. So he is going to do something Kennedy would not do. Kennedy wanted an advisory war. He wanted an advisory war so nobody could say it is our war. Johnson wanted just the opposite. By God, I want to make those Communists understand we are coming. They called the group of us to sit with Henry Cabot Lodge, and it was over at the little conference center we could find close to the White House and Henry Cabot Lodge was there. Then it going to be going to Vietnam and they said, should we send American troops? And we pointed out two factors. If you send them, be sure you get them out of there after they get there on a timetable that the Vietnamese know you are going to follow. Why? Because if you arrive and say this is the only war we have got, which was the watchword in Saigon, you have just said the one phrase that will make the Vietnamese understand. My God, the Americans want this war. And the sound of bleachers being built will drive out any other sound that emanates from Saigon. If the Americans want this, they can sure have it. Now see the Press goes out on the same basis: we are covering a war; it is an American involvement. Yeah, but it is a Vietnamese War. So in the Vietnamese War, you have to cover both sides of the Vietnamese War, but in the war where the United States is taking over the war, the Vietnamese are going to build bleachers and watch us. So we told Lodge, if they go, you must get them on a schedule of return and it must be understood they are going to leave. We are going to achieve things, we are going to accomplish things, we are going to reach benchmarks, yes, but it is not our war. This was the Kennedy approach. And we were now talking to Lodge under Lyndon Johnson, and Johnson wanted to send in the Marines, because he wanted to get this war to something that he could get his hands on, a McNamara had computerized the war. McNamara said to a man who came to him, handing in his report from the computerized readouts, Is that your complete report? Well, yes it is sir, but I would like to add a personal word. A personal word? Yes sir. I would like to say I do not think that these figures are telling us everything that is going on. I have asked you for the readouts. I know sir, but I am saying I just dont think that they really, I just have a hunch that they really dont give us the real picture and McNamara, his face went florid. He said, A hunch? We dont deal in hunches or feelings. We deal in data and we get data and we go by what the data says. And this guy said, Well, sir, I just meant that I dont think it .. He said, leave my office immediately. He went to his secretary, I never want to be in a room with that man again. I never want to go to a meeting where that man is attending. I will refuse to go if I know he is in the room. That man is to be kept away from me totally. Well, Robert McNamara was turning down a guy who had a hunch. But McNamaras computers needed a hunch. He did his best with the data, but the data would not describe a war that is a revolutionary war. This is a revolutionary war and this is where you come back to the crucial role of the Press. If you are in a revolutionary war, wouldnt it be different to cover than a war you think is a United States War? Now, though it is a revolutionary war and you are not getting the picture, you follow the big units in big battles. Why? Because you are going to go out and find first who has a stake in the war. And there is a Communist goal there, to be taking over the villages, taking over the delta. And the military would pour in more people.
Now, my point with this is, many books have been written, but when you look at this pattern that we have set up, you can see how incredibly inviting for the American military it would be to say at the top level, Yeah, but we will show him how to do it. Well, yeah, you can show him how to do it, but then be sure you say, but I got to go now so you do it. And we didnt say that. In fact, we made it clear this was our commitment and to the Vietnamese, if they looked at it their way, if you want this war, you can have it. It is not that I like the North and it is not I like Ho Chi Minh, but if you want to step in and take a war that is my burden, you do it. And we did it. But in the field, the reporters arrived because now there is a war to cover and what did the reporter say? Well, how does it look? Well, how does it look from Saigon or how does it look from the countryside? In the first place, if reporters are there, the first briefing they should get is on the atrocities committed against the people of South Vietnam by the North and what caused that refugee flow to come out of the North. If a man has gotten on the radio and broadcast the names of the people he has illegally killed and Ho Chi Minh got on the radio in Hanoi and he talked all night reading the names of people he was rehabilitating by saying they again can shop at the market place, and then he said, my children, land reform like hot soup, it must be taken slowly. I made a mistake, so we must take it more slowly. That is after a student uprising and a farmers uprising and all kind of uprisings in North Vietnam. We had our eye on, is Saigon performing up the snuff? And our advisory units were out there where things were happening, but if you replace the advisors with our combat units, then you got the Vietnamese building bleachers. Now, why do we go into this? Because the Press should have been the first to see this. Having the Press in Vietnam is great if they would go out and say, My God, the Vietnamese are ready to be trained, they are ready to fight, but the Americans . . . there is your story; the Americans are taking the war over. Now, they would say that by saying the Vietnamese can't fight, they can't make it. What makes the difference between the Vietnamese soldier in the South or the North in terms of their capabilities? They can be damn good soldiers, but they have to have a cause; they have to have a goal. And sure, there is the Hoa Hao, the Cao Dai; all these sects and they are all different and they are all quarreling and they do not see eye to eye and all of them have one particular opponent, Saigon. And the people in Saigon have one particular wish, never leave Saigon, because out there is the war.
I went to Can Tho, they made me a USIA officer running a library system and I had all of Vietnam from Can Tho in the Phong Dinh Province, all the way to Ca Mau. Well, how could I do that? I couldnt reach all those places. By night, I couldnt reach any of them. By day, I could drive in and get out. How did I stay alive? I had a Polish license plate on my car from a USIS tour in Poland and I refused to take it off, and the Embassy guy said, you can't drive around in Vietnam with a Polish license plate. We got a plate for you. I said, Yes, but I drive roads where if I am a Polish member I may be mistaken for an International Control Commission member, Canadians, Indians and Polish. And I was mistaken for Polish, that is good because I will live. So, I ignored him. We never got to an agreement on the thing, but I continued to drive my VW Bug around, and thus I could make those roads fine. I couldnt travel at night; nobody could travel after the sun went down because that was the time that Viet Cong were out there. Viet Cong werent loved, they were feared. It never penetrated to the reporters who came out there. They thought this was a real glamorous story. These Robin Hood people are out there, struggling against this regime within Saigon. No, no. These Communist representatives of a government of the future that would be 6% allowed to have Communist party membership in that government, would run the lives of everything on the same basis as Soviet Union is run and the same basis that North Vietnam is run. But we couldnt get this into our heads because everybody was in love with revolutionary warfare. Yeah, it may sound like it is love that you can put into it, but is really how effective can you reach the people, arm the people, help the people, defend the people, and not take over the war. We took it over. This was a mistake, but we have a right to make the mistake because it didnt work out the other way and we lost our own leader. Now, Lyndon Johnson was a man that desperately wanted a second term, so he brought in to town, everybody from the entire countryside, leadership people that could vouch for the fact that we were winning the war. And when Lyndon Johnson brought these people into town, and this is Washington DC, it was a buildup. It never looked better; I know we are on the right path. But he had another problem. His wife said, Now Lyndon, Johnson men worked too long and always get damaged hearts and therefore they dont live long after they retire, and I want your promise that you wouldnt run for a second term. Now, Johnsons desk is piled with priority, but that little request from a wife he dearly loved, gave him this new way to put the energies of Johnson to a pattern that only Lyndon Johnson could create. He said, Bird, I know that I promised you and I am going to keep my promise, and I am bringing a speech writer down to the ranch and down on this ranch came Stewart Alsop summoned by Johnson. I need a speech. You need a speech? Yes, as you have noted, Washington is full of all the people talking about the successful effort we are making in Vietnam. That is right, everybody is home. The ambassadors have come here, the generals have come here, everybody is here. Yeah. That is just why I want to go before a joint session of Congress and I am going to give my State of the Union message and I have got to find the way to explain this to the people. Well, so Stewart Alsop sat down and thought this is going to be a historic speech, and Johnson said, it is really very brief, yes, I just want you to sum it up very brief. So here is what Alsop wrote, I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for a second term. Now why is he saying that? Because, then, all the outcry will take place in the United States of America, including the outcry from these top officials that all come in from the field. My god, we are winning, my God, the corner is turned, and our President, we can't spare him. And then he can say to Bird, Bird, I really tried, but I just can't turn down all these people that say they need my leadership one more time. Now, its State of the Union night. He is on the platform. She has got her purse with this little tag that they have written, I shall not seek and I will not accept a nomination of my party for another term. He gets up there in the middle of the State of the Union speech. He at that moment reaches in his pocket and it aint there. He has left it on the bedside table. He says, I really regret that. And when they went back to the White House together and Bird said, but then people dont know you are not going to run again. Well, Bird, I will find another time. I can tell them, I mean, things were looking really good in Vietnam. And they did until the Tet Offensive. The guardian of this country for the Tet offensive should have been the media, because they were out there when 44 cities were struck, 44 cities were hit in one night, but what was the prevailing response of 44 cities except one. What is going on in the streets? Well, the Viet Cong came in and took the cities in the night. They did? Slam another bolt on our door. What do you mean? I mean batten down the hatches, we aint going out. The whole population of Saigon said slam another lock on the door and every city in the country had the same reaction; my God, they are coming. We dont want anything to do with them, this is the revolutionary cause that is coming to liberate the country and every city was hit. Did a reporter ever mention that there was no one in Saigon that turned out to greet these people? That they had to come in with guides from the Communist forces up the Delta to be lead into the city by city guides because they could not find their way into Saigon because they had never been in Saigon, and that went for every city in the country. Did they miss a story? I would say they missed the story. But something else, the Vietnamese kept their doors shut for that whole Tet holiday. So where did they strike? The American Embassy. My God! The American Embassy guards said that people are going home for the Tet holiday. Now, when you get home, if you are hear any gunfire over this weekend, climb under your bed and stay there, okay, because we are ready. For what? For a Communist attack and we know what is coming in and we put an extra Marine on the door. There are three of us now, and we are going to defend this embassy if they come, and we know they are coming. Twenty-six sappers blew a hole in the wall of that embassy. They got as far as the door. 26 sappers died in that courtyard minus the one that jumped into the Chancery courtyard and there the guys on the grounds threw a pistol up to the man that lives in the Chancery and he shot the Communist that was there. That was the penetration of the American Embassy, thats all. Peter Arnett was on his stomach in the street broadcasting their sniping from the seventh floor, and NBC says, We corrected these mistakes later in the evening. How many people tune into a correction when you got a news story like that where you have totally misreported the situation? This was the failure of the US media at a gargantuan height, but more than that it was the failure of the Press Corps to report from that city, My God, the Vietnamese are slamming the door the same way the embassy guards are; nobody is turning out for the so called Viet Cong occupation of the city. In the city of Hue, it was the exception, they had a different outcome. They invited all the social groups of Hue to come to the outskirts of the city. They said we didnt come to attack you, but we want to acquaint you with the new society that is coming, and they took the best, the absolute best of Hue leadership. At every level, with every social organization. The only group that had sympathy toward the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese forces happened to be the students, and they were at the University, and as students get, you know, kind of radical when they want to skip the homework, these students were typical students. So they noted where these people were meeting on the outskirts of the city, and these were the creme de crème. You take a cross section of the city leadership, these were the people, including the students, and they buried them alive, and they shot them in the head, and they strangled them with cords, and they killed 6,000 people, and this was on the Tet attack occasion in Hue and the battle for Hue stretched all the way into April and May, and a farmer stumbling across the field had a wire from the ground bruise his foot. And he reached down and grabbed the wire and up came a hand, and then we got the story in April that the Hue massacre had taken place. It ran for one day on the front page of the New York Times, one day, and nothing else was printed about it. My God, they even buried alive the students who knew where the bodies were buried. Now, was this a victorious force? No. It was a force that couldnt claim anybody in Hue that wanted them except the people they had just killed. They killed their admirers, but the Vietnamese got the message. And all over Vietnam, there came this new, there is no compromise that can be worked out. It has got to be, we have got to defend ourselves and we cannot lose. There was now more of a focus of resolution throughout the country, but, in our country, what happened? I mean it was uncanny to watch the Press say, Well, that proves it. Proves what? It proves the Communists are going to win because they can do anything they want to do. It wasnt that they can do it or not; what did they do? Damn it. They buried people alive, they strangled them with cords, they shot them in the head, and they were supposed to be running the new society. Now see, that failure was an immense failure and that failure did in Lyndon Baines Johnsons great moment when he said, You know, there will come a time, Bird. I have lots of time, things are going well. Well, after this, Lyndon Johnson tried to get this little phrase because he had to keep his word to Bird, and so he finally slipped it in and in March at the end of the speech about how peace could be worked out with North Vietnam and it was just a tag line, I shall not seek and I will not accept a nomination of my party for another term and then being Lyndon Johnson, he sent four people to Chicago to the Convention to see if they could draft him. And they called him back and they said, Lyndon, if you have sent us up here to catch colds, we couldnt even raise up a sneeze for you. Four delegates have agreed that they can go down the line for you as a draft candidate and Lyndon left the White House a very heartbroken man. Now, why do I put this in? Because this shows that the Media missed every aspect of what I discussed with you. How do you make a case then that the Media reported the Tet Offensive? They didnt report the Tet Offensive. They reported the scattered bits and pieces of where they could see and the fighting was real in Hue, and the fighting was real in that city and those soldiers were brave trying to defend the city, and the city got shot up, badly, but that also impressed the Vietnamese. They would shoot up the ancient capital where the Emperor used to live. There is no common ground with the Viet Cong. The whole war turned around at that moment, because now you had people who were informed on basic terms of survival, you can't make a deal and it changed everything in Vietnam. Now, the Press missed that story. I would call that a major media failure. When NBC came on, they tried to say, Well, you know what, we had a correction three hours later. Three hours later, the American public watched their TV sets, they get those images and they turn it off. You dont get a correction that way. Now, was it worth it? If Johnson retires, he doesnt run, who are we going to get? Richard Milhouse Nixon.
Steve Sherman: Before we go on to Nixon, we have to give everybody here an opportunity, because according to schedule, you get an hour out to lunch. So I take the lash away from you backs and let you go out to lunch. However, I am going to let the speaker, because he has got eight more years to cover, to go ahead and talk. So I am sorry to give you this Hobsons choice here, but I would like to get this on tape and I would like to make sure you guys get a chance to. . . .
Dolf Droge: Well, I would like to go to the lunch with them, and then we will come back and I will sum up in 15 minutes if you want it.
Steve Sherman: Unless you come back 15 minutes early, I dont have it. I suggest you go ahead and sum it up right now. Anybody wants to go to lunch right now can or stay for 15 minutes and here at the appointed time, I have to add the next schedule.
Dolf Droge: I just will put a cap on this in five minutes, how is that?
Steve Sherman: Go.
Dolf Droge: When the outcome of Hue was clear, when Richard Nixon takes over, Nixon has got to figure how to get out of Vietnam. At the same time, he is going to encounter problems within his administration that no one could foresee. The Vietnamese in this country thought it was so Vietnamese to watch these events take place over an American Presidency because they said, this is so Vietnamese, this is almost, you know, Nixon is in harmony with the Vietnamese people because what we have got, an impossible dilemma and sadness on all sides. But notice, the US media under Richard Nixon also had another subject that they wished to discuss, and Nixon gave them the subject, and it was Watergate. And Watergate was an American problem in the United States of America, but Watergate then started to hang over everything that was being decided about Vietnam and what we could do. And the Press reporting got very special, focused on what did the President do? What happened over there? I dont know if you have read a book called Silent Coup, but if you havent, you better get it, because Silent Coup will tell you what really happened. Woodward and Bernstein got half of a Nobel Prize, but this is the other half or Pulitzer Prize or whatever the prize was, because the Richard Nixon story was all built on Nixons secret, I am going to China, I am only going to be allowed to go to China if I dont let the public know. If anybody knows I am going to China then I can't go. If I can't go, I have no Presidency. So, what was his reaction to Daniel Ellsbergs theft of the Pentagon Papers. There was nothing in these papers about Richard Nixon except he is Vice President. So everybody was flabbergasted when Nixon said, Thats it. Full Court Press, go after these people. Big mistake, Richard. Ignore these people because these people are going to make you break a law. Here is how the Washington Post reviewed Silent Coup and author was that Howard Kurtz as the panelist chief of the so-called, what were they called it is the Sunday show, Reliable Sources, yes. Howard Kurtz, in the review, Silent Coup is an off the wall sci-fi novel. Three lies in one review aint going to make it in journalism school. It is deeply sourced, it is totally capturing Mike Wallaces enthusiasm. He said it was the hottest story he has see in ten years. He was going to open 60 Minutes season with that year and Katherine Graham checks in from the Washington Post and calls the people of CBS, New York and says, Do I understand that you are going to open the season destroying the Pulitzer Prize won by the Washington Post concerning the Watergate break-in and Who is Deep Throat, and all those other problems? And they said, Well, we have. . . to talk to Mike Wallace about that. Well, she said, I own Channel 9 in Washington, DC, that is CBS, and I would hate to see you come on and take my prize away and on that basis they destroyed the chance for Mike Wallace to put on that show. But read Silent Coup and get the book anyway, because you will see what they didnt put in the great Woodard and Bernstein All the Presidents Men. Lyndon Johnson never got the second term that he wanted his way. He could not con people into it, but Richard Nixon went to China and changed everything on the world scale, and Richard Nixon would open the door to Jerry Ford when he himself was in danger of being impeached and Jerry Ford would say, My God, I got to call Nixon. And he called Nixon and said, Mr. President, Mr. Jerry Ford now on the floor of the house, and I have to tell you that there is a rider going through right now on an Appropriation Bill. The Appropriation Bill is very popular, nobody can stand against it, but Teddy Kennedy put a rider on that Bill, and that rider says, If North Vietnam ever attacks the South again, and you know you have just had the Paris Peace Conference, Mr. Nixon, and you have just got the settlement with the North. But if the North Vietnamese ever tried to attack again, this shall be against the law for any US military organization in all the military bases in Southeast Asiato spend the single dollar coming to the rescue of the Vietnamese. That damnable law was a rider that passed, and with 400,000 Catholics in South Vietnam and 100,000 Catholics that died trying to get out, as boat persons on stuff that wont float. Teddy Kennedy left the mark that will sink him when he goes to see St. Peter. He will be told Wave at John in the picture window, but we got 400,000 Catholics that held certain masses; first in Vietnam and then in Falls Church, Virginia, to see your soul burn in hell, because you destroyed their country, and that was the contribution that ended any effective way to get the Vietnam War settled with the victory for the Vietnamese. And you try to explain that to anyone, but a Vietnamese, and they would say that is impossible. But the Vietnamese will just say, I knew it all the time it was going to be a tragedy. We specialize in tragedies. We are working pessimists. We believe we can book a voyage on the Titanic and we could enjoy the trip even though the iceberg strikes and the Captain says, do not panic, we will just stop to take on a little ice. Even though that happens, we want one question answered as Vietnamese, Taoists, Buddhists, and ancestor venerators; when this ship sinks, and I know it is going to sink, do I get a deck chair or do I stand? That is the only important question. What is my position in the tragedy? Those were the incredible people that the United States military made their effort for. Those were the incredible people that today had to come to Falls Church, Virginia, to find a new country, and they didnt come because somebody in the Washington failed. They came because the Press of this country could not understand political revolutionary warfare. It was too big an assignment. They couldnt figure out the Viet Cong, they couldnt figure out whos the good guy and the bad guy, and they got their Pulitzers, but I want to give you the last word. When they went back to Saigon, over and over again, journalists like Morley Safer said, My God! You are my office manager, you translated everything into the English for me, you had every interview that I conducted and you tell me now that you were a Communist agent? Yes, I work for Hanoi all the time I work for you. And thats the key my friends. The Media not only failed to see the problem in Vietnam, they hired those people to be their own interpreters of the events because they went right there and got the Vietnamese who would work for them and would write in Vietnamese their version of things, and reporter after reporter came back and said, My God, I never knew that my guy was a Hanoi agent. Well, brace yourself. President Ngo Dinh Diem created the strategic hamlet system from Phan Ngoc Thao. Dr. Thao was buried in the Diem graveyard there in Saigon, and down came Hanoi and placed him in the Heroes of the North Vietnamese Soviet or Communist government; their graveyard now holds those people that were Diems chief advisors because they were Communists all the time and they had infiltrated the palace. Well, hey dad, maybe Vietnam is a more complicated war than we have ever been in before. Thats true, but if journalists did their job, and that means from start to finish on both sides, showing all the warts and moles, they would have discovered that in political revolutionary warfare anybody who volunteers to you, to come in and be your office right hand has to be checked out totally, and our journalists checked no one out. So weve covered history, but we dont know how to cover a story, and this is the story. And I would rate that journalism an F plus for their performance in Vietnam. The only problem is, they are still reporting the news, and what do we do about that? If they miss that much in Vietnam in that many years, what do we do? Wed better inform ourselves. Wed better read the Washington Times when you read the Washington Post as a ritual, because they dont agree on anything including the weather report, they can't both be right.
It is down to this; the Vietnamese came to America as refugees because they thought America was the most important discovery they had made in their lives, short of remaining in Vietnam. Its the second best place in the world. It is the freest place they now can see and, I tell you, theres going to be a big battle in Virginia when Hanoi wants to come to Virginia and do financial deals with the Governor and he puts that word Hanoi out, because we have in Falls Church, Virginia, legions of Vietnamese who are enterprise people, free enterprise people, and they are going to give that Governor the shock of his life. Because they are going to be voters in Virginia, and when they are voters, they are going to throw out any Governor that lets the Red Flag fly in Richmond, Virginia. So we bring it home at the finish with a simple memory, dont forget Vietnam and dont forget the 58,000 names on The Wall, but realize that they are there because the people in the United States at the time that this was taking place, didnt have a clue, didnt do their homework, and the government was as bad as the Press on this. So, is it a happy story? No, Vietnamese stories are never happy stories. But is it real? It is it real, and it should gird us for what we face in this world. You must understand other cultures, you must understand them at their roots, and you must make decisions based on what you commit to and what you risk your soldiers lives for, when you understand and when the Media can understand that you are going to communicate to the people, and I dont know whether the Media can understand this. You just saw Charlies parade and we never got that shown. Why would we expect to get anything shown? John Kerry bears one thing that will give him problems. He doesnt have a clue of comparing himself to or outshining Ronald Reagan. Forget for this moment, George H.W. Bush, just say to yourself. I just buried Mr. Reagan, marvelous man, ended the Cold War, destroyed the Soviet Union, did it all on a policy. But what does it say for the future? It means we have to get ourselves geared and how can John Kerry lead us in that direction? He can't even figure out which votes he went for. When I saw John Kerry in action, as did Michael Benge, he was destroying Prisoner of War documents inside the Senate because the documents proved that Hanoi still had American prisoners and he was destroying them, and when he was going to be sued, Benge was going to sue him, my organization was going to sue him, and you know, he could ward us off by saying, Yeah, well, I have got 15 million dollars and you can't do it. Well, no, but the American people can do it at the ballot box if they understand; I am not sure they understand, and why I think this is so important for all you who have spent your time here is, we are messengers, we are carriers of the word, and I am not saying this politically. I am saying this in a sense of our country, it needs to get used to the idea of going to the root of a problem and doing the homework and coming up with conclusions that are not Democrat or Republican, but they are intelligent solutions, intelligent decisions based on the data, based on the history and based on what we concern ourselves with most -- our childrens future. This country doesnt run in automatic pilot and we have gotten into some hairy situations when we tried, but the performance of the Media in this country should be a warning to everyone; you cannot leave it to the Media if they are going to repeat our ordeal and be as ignorant and as biased and as empty as they have been on Vietnam. Thank you.
Steve Sherman: Before you all run off, let me add one more note and I will add this again later for those who dont get the massage. I got a box of books up over there on the corner. The authors of those books are here and one of whom is leaving shortly after his speech this afternoon, and if you are interested in getting one of those books and getting it signed, I suggest you grab it and grab them during this lunch break. Lee, you want to hold up all those books for me, Leave No Man Behind" by Jay Veith and Bill Bell.