Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War

The Last Battle of the Vietnam War (Part II)
The Myth of the Returning Warrior

Steve Sherman: Wow! This is the most expensive party I have ever thrown. I want, again, to thank all of you who have participated, for your time, enthusiasm, support to this effort and help to me personally. I would also like to take a moment to for some more intimate expressions of gratitude. And I hope you will forgive the digression.

I would like to thank some important people in my life: my father whose life was an example of the straight-forward approach to problem solving which was his hallmark; my wife, a constant reminder of the best aspects of Vietnam whose uncommon common sense makes me see things from a refreshing perspective; Marty Green, a peer and mentor whose last breath and Soul are still in Vietnam, to Scott Summers, whenever he may be, who was Sancho Panza to some of my many quixotic efforts including the first pass of the following paper which we wrote together more than a decade ago.

The title of the paper is The Myth of the Returning Warrior: Lessons from Those who Fought (by Steve Sherman and Scott Summers)

Society has always used myths to pass on cultural values to its heirs. A popular recurring theme is the warning that the protagonist can do anything except one small proscribed action which, in his hubris, he does and, to his great dismay, is punished.

People make these stories into myths, by the act of passing them on through generations, intending the warnings to be taken seriously—if not the specific prohibition in the story, then at least the general moral attitude of the myth and its proscriptions.

The Myth of the Returning Warrior is time-honored. With the Vietnam War, this was effectively denied, at a cost to both society and the warrior.

It has been argued that a civilized society has no need for such a myth (nor for warriors), yet such Utopian beliefs unconsciously espouse an altogether different collection of myths.

Oliver Stone argued in "Born on the Fourth of July,” that young men were being blindly led to dehumanization by the unthinking support of the war hero myth.

Though it may have played little or no role in most of our thinking at the time, all of us who went to Vietnam had every reason to be imbued with the Myth of the Returning Warrior. We could not all be handed the Presidency (passed, in our memory spans, from the Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces to an heroic Navy Lieutenant) but we could see the awe attached to the civic leaders who donned their uniforms and made speeches on patriotic occasions.

The Returning Warrior is one of the earliest literary archetypes. The trials he undergoes hone his character and enable him to better appreciate the rewards of peace. Despite the temptations of the Sirens', he remains faithful to his family and his community. The knowledge obtained through his adventures in strange and exotic lands is valued by the community and is the foundation for the further evolution of his society. He earns the respect of his society and is able to transcend death through the immortality of his deeds.

The validity of this archetype is confirmed in human history from the Trojan War to World War II. The myth, fostered in the popular arts of each era, is a part of the socializing process that builds a civilizing community which stands ready to defend its way of life.

Myths, as an expression of community values, attain their status because they are passed on by the public at large. In more modern times, such "democratic" processes are over-shadowed by the ability of mass media to create competing myths, often without popular involvement.

Whatever expectations may have been, the Vietnam veteran was certainly disabused of any such nonsense by the reception he received. His community had little interest in his experience; and the so-called “anti-war movement” was lionized by the pundits of popular culture.

Movies are certainly modern myth makers. Each new book or movie about the Vietnam War was hailed as the definitive distillation of the "Vietnam Experience." A novel may accurately represent the author's first person experience. A movie, however, requires more compromises and is a more communal effort. The tendency of the industry to copy its own box office successes reinforces that tendency.

The image of the Vietnam veteran in film is in stark contrast to his celluloid predecessors of World War II. In fact, after reviewing hundreds of such movies, it is possible to conclude that these films, rather than providing the story of veterans of the war, actually are used as parables about the society that produced them.

During the war, the films show a decided lack of support and sympathy for either the war or the soldier. John Wayne's Green Berets (the only pro-warrior movie commercially released during the actual conduct of the war) was shunned by the intelligentsia—despite the fact that it was a very big box office success. Where the war was featured it was as a back drop for the protest films[1]; often, in the Hollywood version, the momentous events of history were supposedly taking place on college campuses, not the battlefields of Vietnam. While events such as the tragic Kent State shootings were major news, the ambushes, raids, skirmishes and battles of Vietnam seemed so far away and less important—except for the fighting man and his family.

When the Vietnam veteran did appear on screen, he was generally portrayed as a "loose cannon", eager to revenge himself on a society that had betrayed him. Fear of the veteran is evident in Peter Bogdanovich "Targets" and a raft of motorcycle movies that set the stage for characterization of veterans.2 The name of John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is synonymous with this fearful image of the Vietnam veteran gone bad.

After the war, the movies dwelt on atrocity rather than on heroism to justify the myth-makers' anti-war position. Deer Hunter, Platoon, and Casualties of War illustrate this genre.

Indeed, Casualties of War can be described as a 2-hour rape film designed to anger and disgust any decent viewer.

When fears of revenge proved to be unfounded, the veteran took on a new role, undertandably (pitiable and ineffective) in movies like Distant Thunder, Jackknife, and In Country.

These characterizations have reflected the prejudices and ideology of the producers and writers rather than any social movements within the community. But society seems willing to ignore the veterans' voice.

The "success" of the protest movement reinforces its' participants' sense of absolutism. They – the protest movement -- were "right"; defenders of the war and veterans were simply "wrong". During the war, they used social pressures to proselytize some veterans, a process depicted in Born on the Fourth of July, The Winter Soldier Investigation and the depiction of the "good vet" (the VVAW character) in films.

Writing in the New York Times, to affirm the validity of Oliver Stone's vision in Born on the 4th of July. Thomas Bird relates his own story: "My Dad said to put the war behind me and get on with my life. I sprinted with that: college, football, dating and bumper stickers on my new car -- 'America: Love It or Leave It.' In the fall of 1967, I asked antiwar demonstrators protesting two Marines recruiting on campus to leave them alone. One demonstrator called me a war criminal. I broke his jaw, got arrested and was thrown out of school. I told the judge I was only defending my honor. The judge said I was guilty. A court-appointed doctor decided the tranquilizer Thorazine was to be my treatment...."  So much for listening to veterans and respecting their witness to event.

"In 1969 I was declared safe, stopped Thorazine and went back to college. The war was still going on. I had shoulder-length hair, wore an earring and read Sartre. I got involved in the theater because the drama students were the only people on campus who would talk to me. They were also the people who had demonstrated against the Marines two years before. I made peace with the guy whose jaw I broke. I spoke out against the war but asked people not to blame the soldiers. They blamed them anyway.... I started to imagine I had never been in the war. But once in a while I'd slip and mention Vietnam and people would drift away...."

[Bird goes on to find merit in Vietnam related movies Scott and I find objectionable and then pleads "I'm tired of war movies. We must stop refighting the war. Let's not mythologize Vietnam any further."]

Bird is an example of a veteran who was effectively silenced. His personal experiences and accurate insights were dismissed as being useless. He is no longer willing to speak up for what he knows is right. After a time, he saw the futility of speaking at all. Veterans of the Vietnam War fought to protect the rights of protestors, yet we are still asked to be silent today. Our recollections do not conform to the historical memory that is Vietnam. We disagree with the protestors' actions and we hold them to account for its effects. This makes the veteran a threat.

Protestors talked about saving American lives, but the only lives saved were those of draft resistors it encouraged while it protracted the diplomatic process and increased the deaths of many less "fortunate ones." The protestor, not the vet, should be the one suffering from survivor's guilt, but the non-vet has not been forced look outside himself, because the "new mythology" shields him from such uncomfortable concepts.

Ambassador Colby said that when we acquiesced to the assassination and overthrow of Diem, we took a moral responsibility for what happened to the people of South Vietnam. I agree with that. But what we also have is that we are the only ones who are feeling the moral sadness to the abandonment of those people. That’s a helluva burden to be carrying. And we weren’t the ones that made that particular decision.

Our view of the past has been misled by this rejection of the veterans' perspective.

The veteran is a threat to the complacency of the non-vet. The veteran is testimony to inconsistencies in the protester's tautology. The veteran knows every event does not entail a concomitant blame. "The number came up" "Don't mean nothing." We knew we had a social contract with our buddies to do our part to the best of our abilities, to use our personal judgment in resolving moral dilemmas.

Our society today has effectively lost out on sharing the wisdom of the returning warrior, preferring instead to listen to the harpies frozen in their insular, sophomoric world-view. Those veterans in elective office on the national level are either overwhelmed in countering the inane perspectives from those who didn’t serve or, like John Kerry, have sold out in pursuit of the only laurels being offered by the community.

What, then, is the wisdom that the vet offers? In this particular instance, as in the lesson of many myths, there is a warning against self-righteous moral positions, and, in this I acknowledge my own limitations. Many of our stated objectives were met (our wishes were granted), but at an unanticipated (and often terrible) cost.

Another lesson deals with the limits of understanding: I have spent a lot of time studying the Vietnam War, before, during and after my time there in 1967-68. There is still a lot I need to learn and yet I keep running into people who have spent, say, four months in country, or even never went, who assure me that they know much, much more about Vietnam than I do.

We have learned that the American press often takes its adversarial role to an extreme; they are often dangerous to our fighting men because their stories focus on "news"—which is often defined as combat deaths, terrorist demands, and enemy claims of injustice. The Fourth Estate is often a Fifth Column and they are more dangerous to our well-being than the enemy that shoots at us with bullets. Furthermore, if we can’t agree on the “facts” of a war that happened thirty plus years ago, how can we give any credence to the reportage of the “news” of the last twenty-four hours. Veterans can help in sifting out the exaggeration from the truth because of our experience with Vietnam era distortions.

We have seen the results of a politically correct education system, expanding its tentacles into every facet of American life, including the “feminization” (as opposed to recruitment of women) of the military. We have seen youngsters taught a watered down history to make sure they are not inculcated with that horrible idea of “values” that would enable them to distinguish right from wrong. We have seen college students indoctrinated under the banner of political correctness at a time when they should be exercising their ability to think for themselves and defining a moral path for their lives.

We have experienced the Balkanization of our political system: legislators attack our institutions, demanding accountability from every one but themselves; proportionality and prioritization are meaningless terms; the legal system from which most politicians emerge, and back to which they return, institutionalize a level of corruption that inhibits the common weal. In the process, national purpose is vastly diminished.

These same partisan politicians, and their adherents shout ridiculous slogans like “No Blood for Oil” while their actions trade the blood of some one else’s sons and daughters for their own political power.

Our experience should have endowed us to see that there is a Yin and Yang (both good and evil) in everything, but we still need to know one from the other. We have learned that we should fear the fanatic more than we fear any of the alternatives the fanatic rejects, but we also learned that a fanatic appears in many guises.

We should have learned that, despite occasional lapses, faith in institutions is an important and essential element in society. As soldiers, we swore allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and our loyalty was only intensified by our experiences in battle.

The recipients of our trust should have learned that they had a reciprocal responsibility We learned in Southeast Asia about Confucian relationships: Parent to Offspring, Teacher to Student, Leader to Follower.

We also know that leadership should not be directed by popular opinion polls. A leader should be aware of his troops’ sentiments, but it is his job to train, motivate, and lead them to succeed in the long-term goals of the unit.

Vietnam will be a source of stories decades to come. Like any drama, the Vietnam War is filled with ironies. The fact that there are parallels don’t mean that the parallels are applicable to the events at hand; they just may be literary allusions. Some of the ironies are obvious; some less so.

One of the less apparent was the impact of the college deferment. By deferring a class of society from military service, we planted the seeds for the destruction of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. Four years of sanctuary on college campuses was as dangerous to American efforts in Vietnam as any NVA operation. Many of the citizens nurtured in these intellectual hothouses became teachers, journalists, lawyers, and bureaucrats imbued with self-righteousness against and disdain for those who served in uniform.

History [today] is taught by people who think, in their egotism, they have had a positive impact upon it; and as a result, they adhere to their world view and label any other interpretations as "revisionism". An Eastern Block pundit on this matter that the freest country in the world, the United States of America, has the most single-minded propaganda machinery controlled not by collusion or conspiracy, but by a consensus among the elite.

By denying the warrior and his contribution, our society created an underclass of people to take risks -- police, firemen, soldiers, -- who have every reason to seriously question why their lives are being offered to protect the undeserving. A popular element of G.I. wisdom in Vietnam is that "we were the Unwilling, led by the Unqualified, to do the Unnecessary for the Ungrateful." For some of us, this cynical expression has application today. “We were the Unwilling, led by the Unqualified, to do the Unnecessary for the Ungrateful.” (If you see a picture of a trooper with a helmet band and he has UUUU on it, that is what he meant.)

The disenfranchisement of the veteran is not resolved by parades, veteran's benefits, or just wishing it would go away. The problem lies in a fundamental direction that society has taken, under the aegis of persons who no longer remember or value the sacrifices of those of us who had faith in their nation and answered the real JFK's call to duty.

President George Herbert Walker Bush inaugurated his term by asking us to put Vietnam behind us. Now that George W. Bush is seeking re-election for a second term, the issue of Vietnam has sprung to life—mostly because of the effort of the Kerry campaign to draw on the military record of John Kerry, especially during his four months of service in Vietnam.

Vietnam never was merely a place in South East Asia. From the start it was a battleground between America and Communism, described by Nikita Kruschev as a "war of national liberation." In the wake of our Vietnam debacle in 1975, our culture has tried to channel and/or suppress the lessons learned by veterans who served in the war.

But unless the debate is brought back to its basis, to our understanding of concepts of "community" and "moral values", we cannot get rid of the thrall in which all of us, veteran and non-veteran alike, still are held by a dark fairy tale that took place long ago in a country called Vietnam. It is the goal, I believe, of this conference to fill a major gap in the cultural record and to draw national attention to the Vietnam experience as perceived by veterans and veterans who became scholars. Only in this way can we return to the perennial lessons of "the myth of the returning warrior."

Having had this opportunity to get on my soapbox, I will now open this final session to all of us here and to ask “Where do we go from here?”


Bill Laurie: I think we do a terrible job of selling our message and I don’t mean manipulating, lying to, for undue personal advantage. I mean simply conveying the truth and let's face it; this is an extension of Vietnam. I have never seen anything so disgustingly pathetic as the American excuse for, we can call it a propaganda war, information war. Dolf’s efforts were sterling, but the United States Government in its infinite ignorance was calling in one artillery round against a major attack. It is not simply a matter of selling your position for your own advantage. It is letting people know what is going on as you see it, honestly and truthfully. I have talked to high school and college groups and most interestingly afterwards, when kids come around and say, "What about this? What about that?" Over time, it is apparent that many of them view us or people like us as some sort of primitive Neanderthals that subscribe to some mythological etiology about phantom Communists and everything else. Then I realize that I had to see myself and my message in terms of how they see me and where I am coming from, and remember, we are dealing with people who have been, and I will be willing to argue this rationally, but who have been, I think, completely indoctrinated. Their minds are frozen in a lock set, that’s what I think and again, I will elaborate on points to prove that, if anyone chooses to question it. If you had a sincerity index, I am trying as hard as I can to be as sincere as I can. One of the approaches I have used in dealing with some of these kid is to say, “look, the reason I care about Vietnam, and this is true, I am not making this up, this is not cosmetic; the reason I care about Vietnam, ultimately comes down to, I cared about Vietnamese rice farmers and fisherman and lawyers and shopkeepers and school teachers. I cared about them as people, just as I care, in my own mind but never having been there, the Ugandan fisherman or Pakistani carpenter or Bolivian lawyer or Lithuanian engineer. I just want people to have a good life. I would like to be able to go to any country in the world and say, “Hey, dude, what's going on, man,” and they go “hey, dude, how do you do?” that type of attitude. I also believe, based on an abundance of evidence, that what is called Communism is, and let's go down the ladder of abstraction, simply a form of organized idiocy, other forms of which have visited this world throughout time immemorial. The record shows the truth, as Judge Learned Hand said, the truth lies in the facts. Read, for God's sake, The Black Book Of Communism. Read it. I spoke with a college professor who taught a Vietnam course, and not too well I might add, nice guy, remember Charles Kettering slogan as saying, ‘you can be very sincere and still be very, very stupid.’ Sad, but true. Then I said, “your students really have to at least be aware of this book and be aware of Communism or they can't understand what happened in Vietnam.” It is all very predictable, you can read Soviet history and it applies very directly, not a 100%, because there is clear overlap to what happened in Vietnam, the propaganda, all that stuff. And I said, “trying to understand Southeast Asia because it was not a theatre war without understanding Communism it is like trying to understand medicine in the 16th century.” It is not too far off base. The illnesses are caused by humors and miasmas, vapors, and spirits and call the shaman in from your Lithuanian or Finnish village and they will do a dance and give you herbs. It might work; some of the folk medicines were quite good, but some of it was sheer nonsense whose only validity is imagined in the mind. Anyhow, I told him about how they got to understand Communism. I said "go read The Black Book of Communism. Have you heard of it?” “No.” Gentleman has been teaching in college for 15 to 20 years, political science and history. Have you heard about The Black Book of Communism? At that time, it had been out about two years. He said, “No.” I said, “You got to read it. You got to read it.” I said, “This thing is full of so much hard documented information and, again, the truth lies in the facts or part of it.” And I said, “It is fantastic, it is 700 pages of hard boiled bare knuckle history.” And he says, “700 pages? I just don’t have time to read it.” God’s truth, that’s what he said. So when we talk to other people, we cannot be very careful of getting in arguments and people say, “Well, you are a conservative.” And I say, “No, I am not a conservative at all.” “And are you liberal?” “No, I am moral rationalist, period, and somewhat of a Jeffersonian anarchist. When I was in Vietnam, I was so fed up with everything, one deep dark night in the inner recesses of my mind, in the absolute depth of anger, figuratively speaking, took my human race card and I sent it back to headquarters and I said, “I resign.” I live on Planet Bill and that’s it and basically I have gone through the rest of my life that way, because you people disappoint me so much I can't take it anymore. But when you deal with people, please avoid getting in arguments. All of push comes to shove, like a Green Beret friend of mine says, “I got two speeds.” ‘Love-and-Peace’ and ‘Better-Watch-out-because-you-are-going-to-kiss-your-ass-goodbye,’ that’s it. So please be informed and please deal, especially with younger people, have patience with them and convey to them the truth that you really do care about them, you care about our children, their children and world's children, the world's future. If we are wrong, so be it, but up to this point, I have to say for your well-being, for the children of the world, for our children, for everybody, that this where I stand. Thank you.


Steve Sherman: Just two words…

Dolf Droge: Accuracy matters.

Larry Altersitz: I haven’t said anything this whole conference because I don’t have anything really that I feel I have to offer anyone. I just want to thank everyone, I came here for the learning experience that it has proven to be and I don’t know what I can do, but I am going to try to do my best and I look for some guidance from the group and I will check in on the Internet. Thank you, everybody.

Steve Sherman: On that note, I want to pass on this suggestion to people. Keep a strong eye on Texas Tech. They are trying to bend over backwards to be fair, but they are the only people who are talking about the Vietnam War in any kind of meaningful way.

Scott Swett: I just wanted to say a quick thanks for having the chance to listen to all you guys. It has greatly enriched my understanding of a lot of these matters and I would like to say thanks to Steve for inviting me to be here. I would also like to take just a minute to sing the praises of the Internet. Several people have mentioned the emerging understanding that the Cold War really was World War III, but during that time there were very few who saw that. We are living in an age, which is a revolution in the way people communicate with each other, unseen since the advent of the printing press and because we adapted it so rapidly, we are all very good adapting to change, we just in someway that I think sometimes we miss the implications and the power of that. Many of you guys have been doing this stuff for a long long time, but you now have new tools at your disposal with tremendous reach and scope and power and there are many many people that would be astonished and amazed and would change the way they see the world and respond to the ideas that you have. Thank you very much.

Max Friedman: It has been a long struggle. I knew Dolf when his hair was down to his waist and he was a hell of a lot younger, so were the rest of us.

Steve Sherman: I thought that it stood up.

Max Friedman: That was when he played with the electricity.
I told my wife, this is a very interesting, At the Department Of Justice, we have to change our security codes for access of the computers every six months, just standard procedure. So I figured hell, I am dumb. I can't even remember my social security number sometimes. I have to do something easy. So the first one was year of 2004, I figured that’s pretty easy and that is when I said ‘my year’, and I had a feeling that this year was going to be different. You don’t really know about the rest of my year of my life, other than that my son came back from Iraq and it started out with my writing about his experiences because I thought the kid was great, then I met the Swift boat guys. A few who I have known, many who I had never heard of, and I wrote the article the “real band of brothers." Today, I am meeting the other band of brothers, the rest of the guys and I am honored. Thank you.


Mike Benge: Steve, I want to really thank you for putting this all together and you have done a wonderful job. I don’t think any of us should get disappointed on this small turnout, but I think part of this was we had a hell of a learning experience within ourselves that we got so much information from hearing the others that we can use that in whatever we are doing which makes us a much more powerful tool than what we were before, and I think that’s probably one of the best things that has come out of this conference. I know that all of us in our writings and what we end up doing has really strengthened out of this and this has been a really great opportunity. I do want to comment on the information. It is so overwhelming out there that people are over exposed to information and this information, and there are so many websites out there that, hell, I can't even end up visiting your website often enough. Steve, to find out what’s next and I began by him and now he is overwhelming, you know, he has overwhelmed me and it is all damn good material. And so it just kind of goes back that we have to ensure that our websites are very good, easy to travel, easy to end up picking up. Some of these websites you get in, and hell you can’t find what it claims that they got on there and so you know, I think you are doing an excellent job in what you are doing on Winter Soldier. But since we are over exposed now to information, I would still want to stress that when you write, it has to be short and concise because if it is not short and concise, there is just too much out there and you just increase you competition and so with that, I am going to be short and concise for a change.


Unidentified Audience Member: I guess this is my turn. First of all, I would like to thank all of you for serving in Vietnam, and we, Vietnamese people, are indebted and very grateful to you guys. I mean we were just appreciate that you guys wanted to help us grow and become independent and be prosperous for future generations and that is the great idealism and even though you are not Vietnamese, but we love just as [though] you guys are Vietnamese and I really, really appreciate and right now, the work that you are doing is actually, you are serving again and for a couple of years now I have been on the net we have been doing all sorts of things because right now it is information warfare and propaganda. We have been targeting youth and students in Vietnam because they are, you know, if we are going to fight for the freedom of Vietnam in the future that is who we want to make the change is the future generations. Of course, the work that you are doing now, I wanted to praise that and inform that you are serving again and that you guys are leading us and helping us with the war that is going on right now in Vietnam which is information warfare and if you follow Vietnam, the Communists has passed Resolution 36 which is a propaganda kind of thing. They are saying that the Vietnamese Americans over here needs help with culture and what have you and they have been buying radio stations and newspapers and then giving out this information about everything. From what America is like to the Vietnam War and everything. So it would be great if we can get the Internet going, if we can listen to all this information out here and especially I already asked some of you if you can help me, if we can start a university tour because the students here really, really need it and I think this is a such a great idea and I hope we can really win this information war thing because that is the future. We have no arms race, there is no violence, we are going to win the peace.


Mike Benge: I want to add on to that. We were on the hill for two days, both of us with I don’t know how many Vietnamese and Montagnards from North Carolina and we went up and lobbied on Vietnam, The Human Rights Bill. And it was not surprising that the Vietnamese government has hired PR firms and they were up lobbying against the Vietnam Human Rights Bill. They had a huge contingent and a long-term lobby effort for many months from the Vietnamese Embassy up on the hill up there, meeting with Kerry, meeting with Edwards, meeting with John McCain and meeting with Senator Luger who is a very influential guy (and he is big on trade.) Remember the old ad there when who is that speaks, everybody listens. Well, Luger is one of the key people and with him now it is on trade. They purport – and The State Department purports -- and you want to talk about propaganda? Our State Department and Congress and key people that should be ashamed of themselves are purporting that we have a bilateral trade agreement. We do not have a bilateral trade agreement. We have a unilateral trade agreement from the US as a form of aid to go into Hanoi and Hanoi is not holding up their end of what was written in the agreement nor has the Communist government who controls parliament ever ratified it. So this is a fallacy by our Department Of State and every argument that we heard against Vietnam Human Rights Act besides outright lies by Kerry, Simmons, and Evans. These guys who are on the side of the Communist is that it will harm trade and that is the big war on the Vietnam Human Rights getting anything done, it is trade and when we were able to tell a couple of three senators that there is no bilateral trade agreement, it is a unilateral trade agreement. It is a farce and they were not agreeing to it; this war, what he said, it is a war of words right now, and we have to go after these guys or we are going to lose. They got more money than us, but we are going to win.

Steve Sherman: We were not able to hold discussions with North Vietnamese and come up with diplomatic words to put on piece of paper that both sides could agree to follow it. It is obvious that they even offered a major development project, the 1973 Paris Accords had no meaning as a piece of paper for the North Vietnamese. There is no reason to believe that any other piece of paper has any meaning for them too, so I have always argued there was no particular reason to even recognize them, because we cannot speak a diplomatic language that we have in common with them. So therefore, why be diplomatic? You talk about humanitarian issues. I am very sensitive to the people of Vietnam -- both the Montagnards and the Vietnamese that I have relations with -- but I think that I would be much more humane to get the burden off their backs. So I would be a lot more humane if I have been allowed to keep them from going under that burden but now that they have it, supporting the oppression that they are faced with, is not a humanitarian act.

Dolf Droge: This conference Steve, has been a marvelous Sitrep and it has been a marvelous supply of information that uses all the ammunition that we need if we can just, as Mike said, get the word out and reach the veteran, yes, because the veteran is one of those targets, but also turn that veteran and target into the greatest advantage because they are speaking with their families behind them and across America there is a great silence on this question. You have awoken that silence. The country is in your debt.

Steve Sherman: I’m a little pooped right now. I need to go on R&R,

Richard Webster: I would like to say that I served with Regional Forces as a mobile advisory team leader in Vietnam and all my life I have carried a feeling of sadness inside of me as to what happened in Vietnam after we left and I just wish that every Vietnam veteran in America could be here to hear the knowledge that was presented here. I just wanted to say that whoever assembled this conference; I know it was Steve and others, this is the best Vietnam conference that I have ever attended.


Scott Swett: Steve, I just wanted to ask you what kind of distribution plans you have for getting out the DVDs that I assume are being constructed. I mean, are we going to be able to get copies of the complete DVDs of the conferences?

Steve Sherman: Are you volunteering, Scott?

Scott Swett: How about right after the election?

Steve Sherman: I would think you would want to get some of the stuff done before.

Scott Swett: Maybe I can do it between 3 and 5 in the morning………yeah, I would be glad to do anything I can to help you do that.

Steve Sherman: You and I, let us talk about it because I can take the tapes we have and I can process them into .wmv or another digital form, but the actual editing of them, I would like to be able to find a way to splice in over the video, instead of the video, I would like to place in the actual charts that people have and other things that are going to be there. Because the video here, it really is just an audio record with some lousy pictures behind it. We did not have a camera crew. Now later, we have got Joe's material, we have got this stuff, the original tapes and maybe we can find somebody else to fix it up. But, I want to get this stuff on the web on a downloadable form, in low res. I want to get high-res stuff edited, in time, and put up there.

Scott Swett: Okay. There is too much size and material to effectively make it available, downloadable from the web. What I suggest you are probably going to need to do is, and quick is better than elegant here, is to get a decent edit, put in what slides and stuff you can so the material is all there and then sell it from your website and get the word out that way.

Steve Sherman: I am really not here to do that. Editing is a job that is really really difficult, especially for me. I just love to take two hours of video, go read a book somewhere, let my computer process it and I can stick that up on the site, I can take it down to wmv3, where it downloads pretty fast and you can look at it right there on the Internet, The medium quality version and the high res quality we can load on either CD-ROMs or DVDs and if we find somebody with editing capability, I have got one guy in Washington who may have that, then turn that stuff over to him to do and if somebody wants to take it somewhere else and find it commercial outlet for that, like getting it on TV….they are welcome to do it. We will talk about the technical side later on.………

Scott Swett: Sure. We will do that offline, but in keeping with Mike’s point about brevity as a critical point, I think we need a pyramid structure where we have brief synopsis of things. Then you can drill down into them and get more and more as you go down, that is how I would arrange it.

Steve Sherman: We have an organization here on my web site where we have seventeen sessions. The people who are responsible for those sessions probably should write a synopsis of what they did and let me go back and post it with their biographical information, add on any references you want to add on, any other readings you want to add on, then give me the text version of your material and I will post that behind that and I will post the video behind it, so that people can take any of the sessions, each of which are pretty well defined; they can read one paragraph synopsis or one page synopsis, however, you want to put it out. -- Hell, your biographies are longer than that. -- Then they can go read as deeply as they wish or don’t wish.

[1] Mekas' Windflowers, Kramer's The Edge, Ice and Milestones, DiPalma's Greetings and Hi Mom, and Alice's Restaurant, Easy Rider, Zabriskie Point, The Revolutionary, Hail Hero, Strawberry Statement and many others.

[2] Kazan's The Visitors, Welcome Home Soldier Boys, Jaglom's Tracks, Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and Rolling Thunder