Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War

War Stories Part II -- The View From Headquarters

Jim McLeroy: [missing] To broaden the scope of the examination of the development of the war chronologically but focusing on four different aspects of it. The Legislative, Executive, the Military and the Media aspects and the panelist are Dr. Bob Turner, Dolph Droge, Max Friedman, and Bill Laurie. Dr. Turner has an extremely impressive and long resume but rather than read it – it is very, very distinguished -- I am sure you will explain this, he is a professor and an expert in so many ways on the subject that it is truly an awesome resume, so I won’t to try to read it all just to give you an idea of his background. Dolph Droge was a former White House National Security Counsel Specialist and he was with the Air Force in the Korean War. He has worked for the US Information Agency in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Voice of America, AID and on the National Security Councils of Presidents Johnson, Nixon, and Reagan. Max Friedman, he is a journalist and researcher on Vietnam, terrorism and international affairs. He was a MACV accredited correspondent in South Vietnam for Human Events and he was inside the anti-war movement for a year and later testified before the Senate internal security sub-committee on the extent of subversion and campus disorders. Bill Laurie spent two tours in Vietnam; first assigned to MACV in 1971 and 1972 as intelligence officer and then from 1973 to 1975 he was a Defense Attaché attached to the US Embassy, Defense Attaché Office, but he traveled all over the country and particularly in the Delta so he is going to [cover the Military aspects]. Dr. Turner is going to focus on the Legislative influence for about 20 minutes and Dolph Droge on the Executive aspects for about 20 minutes, Max Friedman on the Media for about 20 minutes and Bill Laurie on the Military aspects for about 20 minutes and I will keep the time a little bit so we do not run over and starting with that, then I will turn this over to Dr. Turner for his first presentation. It is not limited to the subject course but that would be the general focus.


Dr. Turner: It is a pleasure to be here. My main function at this program is going to be tomorrow morning at 8:30 when I have got 90 minutes and I will tell you a little more about my background at that point to the extent it is relevant, but the two things I want to say first; one I am not a war hero, I may be one of the very few in the room. I went to Vietnam first in 1968 as a journalist. I came back twice as an army officer but because I had done my undergraduate honor’s thesis on the war and had had the good fortune of when DIA and CIA were getting it wrong on predicting who is going to succeed Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. The embassy in Saigon got interested in me when I was a lieutenant and I did an extended TDY and then a later tour where I was supposed to be a Province advisor but in fact they put me back in the North Vietnamese affairs part of the Embassy, the same shop that Douglas Pike used to work in. Douglas was a good friend but I have spent much of my academic career working on the Vietnam issue from a lot of real ways. I did more than a 100 debates back in the teach-ins. I was one of the very few students who thought we are doing the right thing in Vietnam and I debated a lot of the top anti-war leaders waiting for John O’Neil to get back and do the job right but I was actually in Vietnam when Kerry made his splash that I followed. The other thing I want to mention is I am on leave, I am on vacation this week. I am on vacation because I want to be able to speak candidly and I do not want anybody going back to my university and say hey this guy said this and I do not like it because the first amendment even applies to law professors. Anyway, my job is a hard one, when you say did we win the war, did we lose the war? Well we won the war and then we lost the war or as Douglas Pike put it, we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Who is responsible for it? Well, that depends on what you are talking about. McNamara deserves a lot of the blame for his incompetence, his ignoring the combined advice of the JCS and the CIA. Congress deserves a great deal of responsibility I am going to talk about. The Press deserves a fair amount of responsibility. I spent some time living in Press centers and dealing with those guys. I say I was a journalist. I had a press card. I had a friend who is an editor and he knew of my interest and so he said would you like to go over and spend a few months and look around and so forth and so I was not really a journalist but I had a press card and got to live with them and eat the cheap skate dinners and everything, so it did give me another perspective on it. I finally worked in the Senate for five years and was over there at regular intervals and came out during the final evacuations. I saw, I was in 42 out of 44 provinces, one time or another in South Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, so I saw more Vietnam than most Americans all over there but my job, while I qualified as an expert infantry man when I got to Vietnam, it was never as a combat soldier and I saw people die but it was, I did not do anything heroic and do not have any hero medals and do not want to be mistaken for any of the heroes that are in the room.

One of the great myth of Vietnam, I am actually going to touch on two other myths of them this morning is that Congress was bypassed in getting us into Vietnam that somehow LBJ either ignored Congress because they never declared war or LBJ lied to Congress to get them to authorize the war. They often tell the same story, you know you hear the same member get up and give a speech and say we do not want another Vietnam where Congress is ignored and by the way let us not give this President another blank check like we did in the Gulf of Tonkin and you want to say, hey guy, you can play it either way but you cannot really have it both ways but of course you know John Kerry can show you again both ways and you can get nominated to be President. The other one is that the one of the most important lessons of Vietnam is you never send troops into harm’s way without the support of the American people but the reality is we had overwhelming support of the American people when we went to Vietnam, it took several years of McNamara’s incompetence to lose it, as I will show you much of the interpretation of the oppositions of war was mis-founded, that is to say a lot of the opposition to the war was not doves who wanted the Communists to win but rather super hawks or serious thinking people who did not want us to waste a lot of lives for a no win policy. We will talk about that in just one example. The original commitment to defend South Vietnam (and I should really be talking about Indo-China because it was really collectively done as a commitment to defend South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) came in 1955, We re-ratified it in 1955 but it was negotiated in late 1954 after the Geneva Conference. When we negotiated the SEATO Treaty, the South East Asian collective security treaty, the parties are listed on the screen, you all know them I think, so I would not spend a lot of time on them. This was submitted to the Senate, it was approved with one dissenting vote by vote of 82 to 1 and Article 4 of the Treaty made it very clear -- We were making a commitment to defend the people of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Treaty provided that each party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the Treaty area against a party or any territory which the parties by unanimous agreement may thereafter designate and they immediately designated the States of Vietnam -- South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia as Protocol States. Attack on them would endanger its own peace and safety and agrees that in that event had to meet the common danger in accordance with constitutional procedures or processes. So this is a clear United States commitment approved by not only two thirds of the Senate, by you know 40 something to one, about 98% margin of the Senate overwhelmingly. During that debate senators said we are committing ourselves to action that may well cost the lives of large numbers of Americans but we have to do this because the security of South East Asia is vital to our security.

There is a very interesting book called the Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked. It was written by Leslie Gelb a Democrat policy planning staffer, the main author of the Pentagon Papers, New York Times correspondent, hardly a Conservative, hardly a supporter of the Vietnam War, and Richard Betts, a professor at Columbia and they note quite accurately that in early 1955 two senators Mike Mansfield and Hubert Humphrey, who you will remember later became famous as antiwar critics, began the Save South Vietnam campaign and Mansfield said the United States had no choice but to support Ngo Dinh Diem. Senator Humphrey accused US policy makers, that is, the Eisenhower administration, of wavering, saying this was no time for weakness and the fall of South Vietnam would threaten the rest of Asia. This is in fact the history. John Kennedy -- no American was a stronger supporter of South Vietnam -- in a landmark speech to the American Friends of Vietnam in late 1956, Kennedy said Vietnam represents the corner stone of the free world in South East Asia, the keystone to the arch, the finger in the dike and so forth. The whole security in the world basically would fall if we lost South Vietnam. You talk about Eisenhower’s Domino Theory, well, Kennedy had exactly the same idea. He was one of the strongest supporters. He was introduced to Ngo Dinh Diem, both of them of course being Catholic, through the efforts of Cardinal Spellman, and this was a personal interest of his. He went on to say the independence of a Free Vietnam is critical to the Free World in fields other than military and so forth. Anyway, you are probably mostly familiar with that speech so I won’t read the whole thing.

Now again one of the greatest myths of the war is that LBJ tricked Congress or dragged them into war. I have a colleague at UVA who has been Emeritus for 25 years I guess, quite old, who served on LBJ’s Social Security Commission and he said they met with LBJ a day or two after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. He said the President spent the whole time lamenting about he did not know what to do. He was under so much pressure from Congress to do something decisive in Indo-China and he did not want to go to war but he did not want to lose a country on his watch either and the tapes that have now been released show the same thing. LBJ did not want to go war but he was under all kinds of pressure from members of Congress indeed. Some of the strongest pressure came from members of Congress who later were strong supporters of blaming the whole thing on either LBJ or Nixon depending on whether you are Democrat or Republican.

I had the interesting experience of testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee -- it was either in 1987 or 1988 -- on the origins of the War Powers Resolution. I have written two books on that statute and I gather that is more books than anybody else has done with that in the title at least if you do an amazon.com title [search] and I was sitting next to Paul Finley. He got up and said -- or rather-- when his turn came he told we had to pass this -- he was one of the probably the most active Republican cosponsor of the War Powers Resolution in the House -- he said we had to do this to stop future Vietnams, to keep future Presidents from dragging the Nation, kicking and screaming into these conflicts you know against the wishes of Congress without any approval and against the will of the people and so forth. When my turn came I suggested we insert in the record a speech that he had given in May 1961 in which he said among other things US combat, he made references to Korea and how we should have learned in Korea that if you do not make commitments you are misunderstood and war is the result and he said US combat forces are the most effective deterrent to aggression, we should publicly offer them to South Vietnam immediately. No patriotic America will ever criticize President Kennedy for committing combat forces to protect freedom loving people from aggression. Interesting, and then of course in 1973, he says we have to prevent these future Vietnams against the little Congress out there because he was a Republican so how dare LBJ take us into the unpopular war.

Let’s look briefly at the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Congress has always declared war by Joint Resolution. The Joint Resolution is a type of statute. It is passed by both Houses and then signed by the President. Of course a Declaration of War is a total anachronism today. It is as much an anachronism as the power given in the same sentence of the Constitution to grant letters of marques and reprisal which used to be issued as an authorization to a ship captain to engage in war and seize, you know, commercial ships of other countries they are having a quarrel with. While international law outlawed that practice in the 19th century and in the 20th century international law outlawed formal declarations of war or at least the type of aggressive war with which they were always associated in the international law. But Congress on several occasions has used Joint Resolutions and, as early as 1800, the Supreme Court declared that Congress could authorize hostilities by Joint Resolution without formally declaring war and this statute said specifically that the security of South East Asia was vital to American security and that the Constitution and our obligations under the [UN] Charter and the SEATO treaty where they are acting under their constitutional processes as SEATO required, the United States is prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps including the use of armed force to assist any member or protocol state (that included not only South Vietnam but also Cambodia) requesting assistance in defense of its freedom. No question that authorized war in South East Asia and they knew that. During the Senate debate in the Tonkin Resolution, John Sherman Cooper, the ranking Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, had this colloquy with Senator Fulbright who had introduced the Tonkin Gulf Resolution that was called the South East Asian Resolution which really was not just about the Gulf of Tonkin. Senator Cooper: Looking ahead if the President decided it was necessary to use such forces could lead into war when we will give that authority by this resolution; Fulbright responded that is the way I would interpret it. Now that is pretty clear, Fulbright later played around and so we did not mean to be authorizing anything like this. He was lying through his teeth. (Interestingly I was in Saigon on a Congressional delegation in May 1974 when Fulbright lost his bid for reelection to get the nomination of his party and I was having lunch with a bunch of Vietnamese opposition legislators and somebody brought in a note and they read the note he had been defeated and everyone in the room cheered, even the opposition people couldn’t stand him.) Russell Long in discussing this said I think it is time for Hanoi to understand as far as we are concerned we have declared the war, we did it at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Tom Eagleton one of the strongest critics of the war “although the existence of the resolution did not make the war in South Vietnam any wiser or any more acceptable it did make it a legitimate war authorized by the Congress.” John Ely, former Dean of Stanford Law School, a debating opponent of mine of sorts who passed away a couple years ago, very distinguished, one of the most respected legal scholars in the country, wrote a book called War and Responsibility and, looking back on Vietnam, he said as a Constitutional requirement of Congressional authorization is historically been understood. Congress does indeed appear -- years of denial and double talk notwithstanding -- to have authorized each phase of the war. Examples of early Congressional support; in 1955 they approved the SEATO treaty with a single dissent. In 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed 88 to 2 in the Senate, unanimously in the House -- a total vote 504 to 2. LBJ asked for some money for his activities in Indo-China. On its own Congress more than tripled the money he asked for. In 1966 when LBJ asked for a $13 billion supplemental and said specifically I want a roll call vote because approving this money shows that Congress continues to support the operation [and] what we are doing in Indo-China. Three opposed it in the House, two opposed it in the Senate -- overwhelming support. In 1967, a $12 billion supplemental, the opposition had increased so it was 385 to 11 and 77 to 3 in the Senate. That is not opposition. That is, you know, the smallest token opposition. There was overwhelming support for the war until. and what the until is, is what happened when the John Kerry’s and Jane Fonda’s of the world started telling people that the American soldiers were committing war crimes and we were butchers and we were on the wrong side and Ho Chi Minh was really just a nationalist and was a guy that people wanted and we were blocking democracy and human rights and so forth and when members of Congress started going home and people said why are you supporting those baby killers and that napalming of little children and it was very painful because most of them could not find Vietnam on a map and so they started becoming anti-war and the big thing that made that possible was of course when Tricky Dick Nixon was elected President and took office in January 1969. There was no reason for the Democrats to continue supporting the war and so immediately it became Nixon’s war, whole thing was his fault. He was out there, you know, as he was running for Governor of California and secretly plotting to convince Kennedy to send troops to Vietnam but was one of the big lies that we continue to hear.

Now one of the other great myths is that the public did not support the war. Here is a reference to an early 1964 Gallup poll showing a strong public disapproval of Johnson’s handling of the war. Why? Because people were reading the Communists were gaining and we were not stopping them. But after Johnson called for a resolution to permit him and actually used military force against North Vietnam, his support zoomed to 85%. Here actually is the Gallup poll. In July his public approval was 42%. In August after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the air attacks, it went up to 72%, a 30-point jump of 58% increased in his public approval. I only know of one comparable job in American history since we have been keeping polls and that was George W. Bush after 9/11 where he shot up by a similar, I do not know if it was bigger or less but it was a similar increase. Later Gallup polls in August 1964 more than 70% said we were handling the war as well as could be expected. In the 1965 there are 100,000 plus combat soldiers in Vietnam, 60% of those who had an opinion said it would be more likely to support a candidate who favored sending a great many more men to Vietnam. In other words they wanted escalation. September 1966, 60% favored escalation. In February 1967 there were hundreds of thousands of Americans tied down in a war, 75% favored continuing the bombing of North Vietnam. In May 1967, 70% said we are morally justified in going to Vietnam. By July 1969 well after the Tet Offensive still almost two thirds approved the way Nixon was handling the war but that truly misleading because Nixon was saying I am getting our troops out, so you could have Hawks and Doves both liking what he was doing. By September 1970, 60% wanted us to withdraw; by June 1971 by a 2 to 1 margin Americans felt we have made a mistake in Vietnam that would have not happened had we fought the war with a serious military plan in the beginning. It would not have happened had the Press understood what was going on and told the truth about what was going on by 1971, because by 1971 we were turning things around. The only useful thing that Congress did during this period was the August 1967 Armed Services Committee, the Stennis-Goldwater Hearings where they brought McNamara up and confronted him and he tried to say I bombed most of the targets that JCS has given me and then they brought the JCS up and, twisting their arms horribly, made them admit that McNamara was lying through his teeth and a number of the Senators attacked McNamara. And Johnson had the good sense to replace him at that point -- a few years too late.

The Tet offensive was decisive as a public opinion feature. It actually is interesting. There are three myths of history in Vietnam. The Tet Offensive, Dien Bien Phu defeat and the Cambodian incursion, all of them in military sense were victories for the West, that is to say the Communists suffered several times more deaths at the Dien Bien Phu than did the French, even if you include the 6000 or 7000 POWs they took. The Tet [Offensive] was a horrible military defeat for the Communists but the Press in this country did not understand that. They misled the American people and it became a tremendous military victory. Cambodia set back the Communists tremendously and yet again because of Kent State and related issues it became a defeat. One of the interesting things that comes out of the 1968 vote for McGovern was of those people who supported McGovern in the primary in New Hampshire a plurality by the time of the election had shifted to George Wallace and Curtis LeMay. You remember LeMay the “bomb them back to the Stone Age”SAC Chief. Javitz in 1966 said it is a fact, whether we like it or not, by virtue of having acted on the Resolution of 1964, we are a party to present policy. In 1966 my best friend John Norton Moore wrote a massive, several hundred page, legal brief defending the war. The American Bar Association House of Delegates approved it. Javitz put a big part of it in the Congressional Record and said there can be no doubt about the legality of what we are doing and then in 1973, when the public had turned against the war, he said the War Powers Resolution is a bill to end the practice of Presidential war and to prevent future Vietnams. That was a lie. It was part of a con job to convince the American people that Congress was not responsible, blaming their anger about Vietnam on the President, we are going to take care of things. The War Powers Resolution was passed in November 1973, very unconstitutional, very harmful to US security. I will talk a little bit about that tomorrow. I would just note that in the end of 1972, we had the war basically won on the ground, again I will talk about that tomorrow. Here is a quote from Stan Karnow noting that the South Vietnamese government controlled 75% of the territory, 85% of its population and not all of rest of that was undisputed, that is the Communists did not completely control all the rest. They had the war basically won on the ground by the end of 1972. The Chinese and Soviets were very hesitant about giving further aid to Hanoi. Hanoi shot up all of its SAM missiles and was totally vulnerable to B-52 bombings, all we had to do was say misbehave and the B52s are coming back from Guam, except things change and that is Congress came along. This is to describe the notes that Vietnamization worked. My late friend Bill Colby was CIA station chief in Saigon in the late 1950s, probably was in Vietnam as long as all but one tiny fraction of 1% of the Americans who were over there, in very senior positions. Our views on the war were incredibly alike from similar experiences, we both had traveled extensively around the Delta in 1968 and in 1971, there was no comparison in terms of security and he agreed we had it won by the end of 1972.

In May 1973 Congress passed a law responding to the John Kerry’s of the world, here is the law: :notwithstanding any other provision of law on or after August 15, 1973, no funds heretofore or hereafter appropriated may be obligated or expended to finance the involvement of US military forces in hostilities in or over or from off the shores of [South Vietnam,] Laos, Cambodia unless specifically authorized hereafter by Congress.” Congress passed a law saying the United States military can no longer protect the people of Vietnam that John Kennedy and the US Congress had promised to protect and also the people of Cambodia. Galvin Best notes what changed from the time of Truman to Ford was not the goals of Presidents but the attitudes of Congress. In early 1975, a new Congressional majority had emerged that was prepared to use legislative power to end American involvement in the war. They also note they do not have the secret files yet -- this was written back in 1970s -- but most people seem to believe that South Vietnam stood a better than even chance of holding on and so on against North Vietnam if, with two ifs: one if Congress would continue to approve money and the second if was if Congress would do nothing to jeopardize the threat of American military re-involvement to undermine deterrence. In particular Nixon and Kissinger wanted to hold the option of bombing North Vietnam once again. In 1974, they should have said May of 1973, Congress legislated a ban on all future of American military involvement. They cut military assistance to South Vietnam dramatically at a time when they needed more money because the oil embargo -- remember the Arab oil embargo -- was driving up the cost of petroleum several fold, they reduced aid tremendously from only about two fifths of $700 million or about $280 million actually reached South Vietnam before they were overrun.

I worked in the Senate in those last years. I sat in the Senate floor and watched Ted Kennedy repeatedly get up and say they have got millions of dollars worth of equipment there. They do not need our money -- and they did. They had helicopters. There is no fuel or spare parts. They had artillery, just nothing to shoot. It is amazing how ineffective the howitzer is when you are being overrun by North Vietnamese, all you can do is pick it up and swing it out, not very useful at all. We need to keep in mind Ford was almost powerless, Watergate had brought Nixon down. Ford was an unelected President, had not even been elected as Vice President and thus had no credibility to take on a Congress that had the bit in its teeth. Pham Van Dong, the Prime Minister of North Vietnam, said the Americans would not come back now even if we offer them candy. Hanoi sent 21 of its 23 divisions, saving only the 325th to protect Hanoi, in a conventional military invasion behind columns of Soviet tanks that could easily have been blown apart by our air power without any ground combat involvement and we could not help the South Vietnamese. We sat back. I was there at the end. I saw the eyes of those people as we bugged out and left them behind and we know what ultimately happened. I will talk about this tomorrow but the Communists went into Cambodia and butchered about two million people, in South Vietnam at least a 100,000 were executed, at least 500,000 are estimated to have died as boat people trying to flee their country, some of them starved, some of them died of thirst, some of them were raped and murdered as they were being robbed by pirates but the UN High Commission on Refugees estimated that about half of the people that fled Vietnam in those little boats never made it alive to shore.



Jim McLeroy: Dolf is going to talk about basically focusing on the Executive for about 20 minute so we can watch it.


Dolf Droge: I was on loan to the White House because I criticized President Johnson. And I had criticized him in a way, which was prompted by people saying to me, well what can we do about the Vietnam problem. Then I said President Johnson means well but the Vietnamese are 2500 years old and if you are going to reach them you got to understand they can book a voyage on the Titanic and enjoy the trip. They do not have a problem with stamina under pressure. They do have a problem with someone who does not understand them. So Johnson kept saying we are going to win, kept pushing that moment and pushing that line because he felt that this was what he inherited from President Kennedy. President Kennedy as he sat at desk realized the number one situation he had to worry about was us. He had this as a side show left over but it did not become a side show under him. It now became a priority because Eisenhower told him you lose Laos, you lose your ass. He never mentioned Vietnam. Eisenhower mentioned only the fact that there in Laos you had this tremendous North Vietnamese supply run. He also mentioned that the government of Laos was very shaky and therefore he said I am training White Star teams, I know that Laos is not a long-term commitment but we have to get the White Star teams to train the Montagnards so the Montagnards can pass that on to their kith and kin north of Hanoi and this was Eisenhower’s study of that map of population in Indo-China. He saw that the teams that were training with the White Star mission were going to actually be affecting the same people that lived north of Hanoi, kith and kin. He wanted to do this on the basis of that is how you hold on to this and he briefed John Kennedy on this with no uncertain priority. So Kennedy picked that up, took it for real, went in and accepted that same commitment in Laos. As he did so, he also looked at another problem and that was Cuba and Richard Nixon came over from the Eisenhower administration and presented the Bay of Pigs plan with the time lock on it. This must be accomplished by April 15, 1961 or we cannot do it at all. Now Kennedy looked at the plan immediately but now on his desk arrives a 22-page trip report and that trip report from Edward Lansdale. Lansdale, the hero of the Philippines and mentor of Magsaysay, has now gone to Saigon. He has come back from Saigon with his Lansdale approach and Kennedy not only likes what he reads. He says “I want this man to be my ambassador in Saigon and I want him found now in this government and he calls McNamara and says you got a guy name Lansdale. He is working for Defense Department” (actually Lansdale was CIA but he was sequestered to the Defense Department). McNamara never heard of Lansdale, he said he will try to find him. Kennedy was receiving a briefing on the Bay of the Pigs and that afternoon was a Sunday and Lansdale has been located and comes in with McNamara. He says to the generals that are there taking the briefing on Bay of the Pigs, “This is my next ambassador to Saigon. He is the adopted son of President Ngo Dinh Diem. We are going to have a different time in Vietnam if we can keep the Laos priority under control. If we can change the whole operation in Vietnam so we want that this emphasizing the north stays in the North and we can defend the South if the South knows that, that defense is coming and Lansdale is regarded as an adopted son by President Ngo Dinh Diem.” So this is the setting. Kennedy is caught then when the North Vietnamese step up the attack on Laos, got before television as his first crisis speech. He said Laos a country of fishers and farmers, not even the National Geographic could follow this but he had a map. It was on a lazy Susan. It showed Laos before and then it showed Laos after and it showed an attack of the measles that had broken out all over Laos coming to that north east section and this was the big Communist push. Kennedy also had on his desk ticking with the clock, the Bay of the Pigs plan that had to be, according to Richard Nixon’s timing, April 15 was the end of the possibility of doing what they ever going to do because of a coordination of assassination of Castro. On the very morning of the Bay of the Pigs the training in Nicaragua of those freedom fighters coming up and everything was closing in. If you want to see this in detail, I am sure that the specialists in this room have already read it, but go back to look at this marvelous book. John F. Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy by Richard Reeves. Richard Reeves got the Kennedy family to hand him the archives and you go through the Kennedy presidency week-by-week and month-by-month. You read memos he got and you read the reactions of the president and his cabinet and his staff. It is an incredible book and no holes are barred when Kennedy asked McGeorge Bundy how do we do this better, McGeorge Bundy said I will send you report. It will be a memo and he excoriated Kennedy for the Kennedy habits of taking too much time with journalists, swimming in swimming pools, fiddling paddle, the whole thing. I mean it’s a look at the White House that I do not think any President has ever before envisioned would be released to the people but there it is and in the middle of this you see that the Laos deadline is now pushing Kennedy to the wall and he was already told the people we will go to war on this issue if necessary to stop it and he is not just talking about Hanoi now he is talking about the sponsors in China and the sponsors in the Soviet Union and then he runs past the dates. He runs past April 15 because he sent the commitment, put the troops in and responded in Laos but running past April 15 causes another problem because that was the date they said could not be changed. What was behind that date? The Russian pilots had brought MiGs to Cuba. The MiGs were given to Castro but Russian pilots went home and Castro would send his pilots to Czechoslovakia to learn to fly those MiGs and they are back in Cuba April the 16. They are operational in Cuba and that means the Cuban freedom fighters, the exile movement, is going to come in with propeller-driver aircraft and when only one flight is permitted by Kennedy from the aircraft carrier support for the beach that morning. The trouble is they have miscalculated the time zone by half hour. So they are going to run an aircraft sweep from the aircraft carrier over the beach as deserted, but it is going to certainly tell Castro where he should be. However, Castro should be dead at this moment because they had an assassination that would take place at the same time in Cuba. It was destroyed by a freak accident when a woman sat on the street porch. You know she was out in the front porch. She was the grandma. She had beans in the basket. She would sort through the beans and this was to look for the security patrol as they came up and down the street when it would stop at a light, in turn cruise down, cruise back she could inform everybody in the house but the house was full of the plotters and Kennedy plans for this were timed on the basis that before the Bay of Pigs landing, Castro will be dead. It was very early in the morning the security police came up through a suburb and [stopped] at a stop light and were looking down this road, anything unusual in this side, anything unusual on that side and then out of an alley across from the woman who is the only person who could see this visage was a mad dog foaming at the mouth, coming out of that alley and heading right for her. She screamed threw the basket in the air, the security police noted this as a stoplight, they thought she had seen them. She ran into the house. They came into the house. The plot was dead. The plot had been uncovered. This was described to us by the operative in CIA. This man was the man who said it would have worked, it was Fitzgerald and he was in a wheelchair and he sat there in the shadows and he told us what happened. He said that is something you cannot control, even with the CIA, a mad dog frightening a poor woman who runs in and brings the security police on her heels. He is the dad of Francis Fitzgerald who wrote the great antiwar Vietnam book called Fire in the Lake which the Vietnamese read and called Fizzle in the Pond. The rest of the Bay of the Pigs then hinged on the aircraft carrier sending half hour early that flight on the wrong time zone and an economy minded officer for maintenance down in Nicaragua. Because he thought they were buying too heavy a weight motor oil for the engines of the landing barges, so he got a big bonus savings by taking the thinner motor oil, only it meant that the engines ran slower and again they were very late arriving at the Bay of the Pigs. The Castro Air Force was up not with MiGs at that time in terms of the past history but now had MiG capability and they shot out in the sky, all of the propeller driven aircraft for those exiles and this is why Kennedy then made it so personal when he said I and I am alone responsible for the total failure at the Bay of the Pigs operation. Then he told Bobby. I have never been more popular -- and that was a complete fiasco. My God, my rating has gone through the ceiling. People support me totally. I got to get used to this Presidency.

Now you see this is behind them, his reaction to Vietnam because he is looking at these things that did not go well now, he is looking at this question of what to do well and then of course, as the history moves on, the American public does not see any action in Laos that forces the withdrawal of those forces, so we got a loaded deck now and we have got a Vietnam commitment and we have got Lansdale as the hope of the President and Dean Rusk sitting out there in the land of the professionals said well you know I am the Secretary of State so while Kennedy is all wrapped up in these things I will pick my own Ambassador to Saigon and he picked Fritz Nolting, a very good man, a Virginia man, but Fritz Nolting did not have the friendship that Lansdale had. Lansdale was an adopted son of the President. He called the president “Papa.” Lansdale was surprised because this went through quickly and Dean Rusk’s choice was made and approved and Lansdale went back with his team months later but he said by the time he got there Diem said you must not call me “Papa.” It is undignified and he said “I stayed away too long.” Lansdale however asked again by Kennedy would you go back, would you be my ambassador now and Lansdale knew that this was going to be make or break because now the question of this whole situation that come to be what the influence of Brother Nhu, of what is happening in Vietnam with not only the battlefield situation but the political situation. [Ton That Dinh] An adopted son of the President, President Diem, started filling the CIA with information about what was going on and Brother Nhu bugged the room where all the generals of ARVN went down to My Tho where they plotted a coup. Brother Nhu had the tape, played it for the President and said they are going to have coup at what time: 4 o’clock November 1, 1963. Nhu said fine. We will have our coup at 3’o clock. Our coup will killed the staff of the American embassy, kill the families of the American embassy and we will let them know with that blood in the streets that it will be sink or swim with Ngo Dinh Diem. And sent Madame Nhu to the American woman’s club circuit in America to be there to orchestrate this event, explaining it to the American people. You haven’t seen, you did not listen, you do not support and you constantly conspire. So he was an invaluable source for us because he was in the room as the adopted son of the President and he could bring even more than Lansdale could have got at this stage, so the coup was slated for three, so then the generals and Ton That Dinh said we will move then at one and when the coup came -- it started at one -- and the police chief of Saigon called the President. I am on the floor eating my lunch under my desk. A tank is on my lawn and is firing at the shutters. I believe that I have to report this to you sir and the President said to him, President Diem, it is very early and hung up. Nhu started checking his sources. Planes came to bomb the palace, Nhu and Diem disappeared out the back door and went to Cho Lon and out of the Cho Lon now they were negotiating to come back. The palace wreckage was there, the entire city of Saigon walked through the palace, the phone rang. Correspondents do not know where the phone is ringing. Ton That Dinh picks up the phone, hello it is Diem and it’s Nhu and they are calling for help from Cho Lon and he said you MF will never get a thing from me, I did this to you. I’m your adopted a son because you went so far off the rails and you will pay now. You are doomed. Big Minh accepted their surrender, then they went to Lodge. Lodge just learned they were going to kill the American families. They were going to kill the embassy staff. All this was on the plan. The General then called a General from North Vietnam. He would have troops dressed with North Vietnamese Commando Garb and that was how they were going pass the responsibility. In the weapons carrier that Big Minh brought with him were Diem and Nhu. And Nhu needed a fix. He was heavy without the drugs and he needed a fix and he was denigrating the guard and the guard’s wife had died in one of Nhu’s prisons and he was getting very angry. In the meantime, the conversation with Lodge was not going anywhere because Lodge said you need what? I need a plane in 24 hours Big Minh said, get him out of here in 24 hours and Lodge said (and only American could say this to Vietnamese without getting full effective of comedy) well I could not get a plane in 24 hours and so the Vietnamese went back downstairs. By this time Nhu had been killed by the guard who had taken the razzing and then Ngo Dinh Diem was shot, transition was in and Lansdale was glad he was not there. See, all of this was Kennedy’s first year and then he takes over and tries now to plan for the future but knowing the situation in Vietnam from that point when Lansdale did not come back. He did not come back as the Ambassador but he did come back. He said before he died Diem told me I could not call him “Papa” any longer. I had stayed away too long. So now they were checking everything to see what would happen and Kennedy himself was being begged by Johnson to go down and settle this quarrel in the Texas Democratic Party and so the Bay of the Pigs was a failure. Kennedy admitted the failure, and he never forgot what he still thought was the most valid part of his briefing. You lose Laos, you lose everything. Do not lose Laos. Kennedy did not lose Laos but the sadness is he also never got a chance to work on the infiltration problem, the Ho Chi Minh trail, anything else that could have been done in Hanoi. It is history, it is painful history and when Lyndon Johnson came in, Lyndon showed his cards very early when this coup took place. Mike Forrestal had engineered the coup on this device. Kennedy said I would not sign until everybody else signs. Mike called Kennedy on the golf course and said they have all signed, sir, and that was a lie. None of them had signed and now he got Kennedy to sign and then each one called everybody back and said now you are going to go. Now we’ve got the green light, so here comes Lyndon Johnson past these exultant people because the coup was succeeded, by the way Madam Nhu got a phone call informing her she was now a homeless person. She was no longer a wife of the second in power in Vietnam and she was a widow and so that her life changed there, too. Come to this other scene, you have got the story. Johnson’s walking past Mike Forrestal and the guys. They called him Vice President Cornpone, that is their rubric for him, and he knows it and they walked past or he walks past they say what do you think of it today that coup worked and Johnson said “well, Ah do not rightly know what may happen next but Ah do know one thing for sure, you fellers just killed the only two people who could have ordered us to get the hell out of Vietnam and make it stick, legally they could make it stick and I think we all have to ponder that” and he went over to his Vice Presidential office and sat down and thought “we got a problem on the agenda.” This is the inside look what a President would see and this is why President Kennedy joked to Bobby, maybe I should have another disaster to make my popularity soar but the next thing would be on the retaliation line of John Kennedy himself because Lyndon Johnson begged him, you got to come to Texas. You got to help me get this divided Texas party between Connelly and Yarborough, a conservative liberal. You got to get it done. So he said he would go and when he got down to Miami, the Mafia there had the hit out on him and the Secret Services said simply there will be no motorcade in Miami a little way until we get the safe territory in Dallas. So what I am saying to you is this is an intricate thing but if you go back to the book and you read President John F. Kennedy, you will get month by month what this man wanted and the loss of Lansdale in his planning so early really sealed the fate of what could have been a new policy for Vietnam. On the other hand this is all from a spectator’s point of view because I had been brought from the Voice of America to go down and cover his press conferences. At the Voice of America we were broadcasting to Hanoi and we had Hoang Van Chi on the air as our commentator. Hoang Van Chi wrote the book From Colonialism to Communism, a case history of North Vietnam. He had opposed Ho Chi Minh, he knew the whole roster of people there and, for your information, our effort in Vietnam was registering so highly with the youths in Hanoi, they say wear black pajamas no longer. They brought blue jeans off the black market -- the sons of the elites -- and they played guitars and they sang songs entitled, I do not want to go and die in far away war for an old man over 60 and all of this was reported there so we re-reported it for the Vietnamese in the South, we got a lot going for us but it was still Vietnam -- the eternal mystery. Thank you.



Jim McLeroy: Okay, thank you, and now Max is going to discuss this from the standpoint of media influence and chronologically see if he sees fit.


Max Friedman: I found out one thing in life, never volunteer for anything. Never get close to anybody who can volunteer you for anything. I should have been in another city yesterday but I got volunteered for this somewhat out of the blue but actually it is something that Dolf and I and others have been talking about for 30 some years and what I am going to do is little bit of a show and tell -- some personal things, some things are rather public and I like to talk in vignettes because I was only in Vietnam for short time and Cambodia but I was a journalist here. I covered the Hill and I was in the news as much as covering it some times and you see things. If you are happy as a reporter and you see something, you are interested in the story. If you are lazy or you say it is not my bailiwick, you pass off to someone else, other guys just do not do anything with the story and I started out in college in 1965 pro-Vietnam. We had student groups. I had some letters from the GIs that I used to correspond with and what I noticed was no matter what the level of GI was, at some point -- Third Marines over here, couple from other military units -- They were all saying that they saw the Communist killing the people in Vietnam, burning their schools, killing the officials. They were doing really horrible things. These were kids, one was a high school drop out, one was a high school graduate and one was a college drop out, so there are three different levels of education. They are all writing me the same thing to the guy they do not know, all they knew I sent them some Christmas cards. So, so I began to study Vietnam. I was lucky I came to American University for the grad school and I was switching programs so I had people who were in Special Forces in my class. I had Ken Landen who was a teacher who was knowledgeable in Thailand and a guy with our group called the McDowell Luncheon Group of which Dolf was a member and Mike came in later, Bob. Here we are with a couple of Ambassadors, Durbrow, Bernie Goh who was SEIKO in World War II in the China Theater, then worked with Lansdale in Vietnam, a lot of OSS people and I am hearing stories. When I hear them, I’m a kid from Baltimore, my biggest deal was meeting Whitaker Chambers, a Soviet spy and Johnny Unitas, quarterback. I began to hear that there was a real world out there and I was a kid -- the new kid on the block. I was about 21-22 and I am listening and I always thought, you know, sometimes you learn more by listening than by talking and over the years I have come to appreciate who was sitting there. Admiral Moorer would come in, Arleigh Burke would come in, Dan Galley would come in, name somebody, Peter XXXX, serving with the Federal Reserve, who help set up Accuracy in the Media, and the one thing they had in common was complaining about the media especially the Washington Post and its coverage of Vietnam and also New York Times, these are the two big papers we had here, LA Times we did not get too much. And you are looking at it -- I am looking it as a student who is studying this -- and listening to people who had been there and listening to where they are picking up all things that were wrong and things that were distorted and usually somebody said, “No, I was there, I saw it, this is not what happened.” Then television came of age in Vietnam and you are seeing what I would call, they are not sound bites as such but they were snippets of something going on, let’s say a battle scene, and that’s it. There ultimately was not a context of what else was going around and this was especially true in Tet but according to most of the reporters the world was collapsing, we were losing. It turns out to be exactly the opposite of Don Oberdorfer wrote in his book Tet and Peter Braestrup did in The Big Picture and I kept thinking I got to get to Vietnam. I was studying at the college studying anthropology and studying international affairs. I wanted to go to Vietnam, so I got involved with a student group which eventually got me over there in 1970 and I said you know, what is wrong with this picture? Oh, in between being a student going to Vietnam I also ended up doing a graduate paper on public opinion on Vietnam. I knew who the supporters of our policy were. That was not too hard. I did not know much about the people who opposed it. This is going to be one of my other talks I think what follows this. But I found so many people were ignorant of a lot of basic facts of history, of culture and then you find out that the journalists in many cases were just ignorant of the history and the culture and the people of Indo-China than anybody else was. Anybody could really get a press pass if they got the right letter. Somewhere in the archives of Saigon is my MACV credentials which I never picked up. But I got it from South Vietnamese and I went out, I did not suffer with the culture shock that lot of people did and I did not hang out in the bars of Tu Do streets. My hotel room was the Majestic. I spent one night with Jim Parsons, over at the Intercontinental but we were talking business and I made a job to talk to the other major journalists including Henry Brazier, Don Kirk. Met Bob Chaplin over in Cambodia and I listened to them and they were complaining about the media. Specifically, the visual media, especially CBS, and I will not mention the name of it but some of the guys from CBS if they did what they had been accused of in these rumors and stories, they are really a bunch of bastards and they treated their own people bad and they treated the American people badly. All of the people who did the visual studies do not feel you can go into this in an attempt to make the analysis but I look at the stories that are saying, I saw from my undercover work in my testimony of Congress and how did the media treated me between being unprofessional to being very professional. I saw some of the same things in Vietnam, then I saw good reporting and I was reading a lot of the current news clips out of Pentagon. So I was getting a pretty good spread while I was out there and I would say, this looks good, this is interesting, this is B.S., and then when I say, Oh this is weird. I have never seen this before and sometimes you never see a story on something again which is what I have on this table.

I began to look at the way wording was used, and I give you one example, I do not have the article with me but Michael Parks, from the Baltimore Sun, did an article around 1971, 1972 and it said US Aircraft strike only 30 miles from Hanoi. They were going after another radar sites. While 30 miles from Hanoi sounds like you’re practically on the guy’s back step except when you take a map of North Vietnam and you take a ruler and you measure, you draw a line between Hanoi and where that radar site was and go to the border with Laos and you go up to where the border would be with Red China and you begin to convert those inches into miles and you take that mileage and you stick it using Hanoi would be Baltimore and that radar site would be Washington DC. It will turn up to be the equivalent of Washington DC to St. Louis in US miles. At 30 miles, in that country across the waist would was really one third the way across the United States, but the word “only” really struck me is giving you a twisted article. If he had said US Aircraft struck at North Vietnamese radar site 30 miles southwest of Hanoi and left it at that, that have been a true descriptive article, but putting an adjective in there, an adverb in there, it made it sound like, oh we’re bombing on the back door of the capital and that is not what happened and you have to watch those words throughout the reporting. These are color words. I have never been to journalism school but a lot of my friends have been journalism teachers and I used to date a woman who was a high school journalism teacher and she said she would take her students and tell them cut out an article in the newspaper. Take a pen, scratch out every adjective and adverb in the article and what is left is the story. Everything else is irrelevant. It only adds color to it. It does not add any facts to it. Then she said you have to go check the facts and make sure they are right.

So, I specialized in three or four things, one was terrorism in Vietnam. I did a lot of interviews with North Vietnamese, defectors of Viet Cong, defectors, prisoners of war, a couple of prisoners of war in Cambodia, lot of survivors. I interviewed one of Mao’s bodyguards in Taiwan and Mao’s secretary from 1930. I am hearing these incredible stories, some of which I could verify from other sources. I am saying this is not coming through in lot of the major media. I will say the Washington Post had very good writers in Vietnam, a couple of them today I think it has gone totally off the deep end like Bob Kaiser but Kaiser’s writings and Osnoe’s and some of the others were good because if you compare them to other writers over a period of time and they were saying basically the same assessments whether it is negative, neutral or positive, you are seeing some consistency, there you see some good analysis that these few people who were staying there, such as Henry Brazier who got to cover South East Asia and have been there for years. I mean read their analysis pieces and they would usually go and do a big story on a topic and they do it very comprehensively. You could look at that and then see how developments were going along over time and how they were, the fact that we could drive on the road during daytime in the Delta and there was a sideline in November 1970. I thought it was pretty unique because according to some of the Press you could not do this. The Cambodian operation had wiped out most of the Communist forces and its supplies. We were not getting hit anywhere. We did not get hit in the Central Highlands. I could see that for myself. I could see the rice fields which was not a story that was really told by most reporters that the agriculture program with the miracle rices was spreading wealth throughout the Delta, fertilizer was coming in, South Korean fertilizer, which increased the yield and the rice types, IR-8, -12 and -16 were increasing the yield per hectare and I know what happened in withering of rice to see what it was like. It is hard work but the people were getting not only a subsistence crop but they were also getting the cash crop, one they could sell as surplus and they were buying roto tillers and I think that lot of you may have seen those little Japanese long aluminum tube motors they use on boats. One of the Vietnamese or one of the American advisors are telling us, you see the Vietnamese are very innovative, they were actually very good capitalists. They took those motors and apparently they could reverse it, put current on it and turn the tube upside down and use it as a draw pump so they could take water from one level in a rice paddy up to another one. They did not have to use suitcase or try to bring water in from a canal. They could actually just pump it from an area to area as they had a need for it, as they had it developed. I saw the rice paddies. I was not too keen about walking. A lot of something called land mines I think but I got out there and you could see what was growing. If you go to the market and see the crops and in one case we were down somewhere in the way down the Delta almost in Ca Mau and it was at a site that everybody, all the journalists, went to and this is one case where I was able to take writings from four other journalists and compare to what I had seen myself in my own notes. Four of the five journalists including myself were positive about what we saw, only Ralph Blumenthal from the New York Times was negative and he interviewed the husband of the woman that always featured in his story because Communist party graveyard was next, I do not think anybody knows what this was, it is a graveyard, it goes back to early 1920s and it was a very well kept and we asked them why is the graveyard kept like this, these are your enemies. She said we respected dead about who they are, this is pure Vietnamese culture coming in and since my interpreters were called white shirts, government officials, people are not going to say bad things about the government and government officials, but the interpreters were the brother of a friend of mine from the Embassy here, I know I can trust them but I had to say, all right -- you know I spent 900 years in college, I had learnt something in anthropology -- so I said all right. I said to the woman, since the government has reestablished control down here, what improvements have you seen in your life. You never talk with men, talk to the women, they know the gossip, they know the economy, they control the economy and she did something which was great. She says my kids go to school here. They did not go to school when the Communist were here. She says they built a bridge between our hamlet and another hamlet so you get into a central market that was put on a concrete pad from market spaces and she says normally the women who were pregnant would have to be taken up to the Provincial Hospital which could be on Soc Trang or My Tho or someplace like that. She said now we have a closer in hospital for maternity, so we did not have to worry about somebody getting sick or ill, or not even getting to medical care and then she said what I thought was very funny. I have this affinity for pigs for some reason. She said the Viet Cong used to tax my pig 300 pi, Vietnamese piasters, which is almost a dollar. She said the government does not do that, and I said she is thinking like a housewife, how do I save my money for various things and I was impressed with that statement because again she is telling me something that she is seeing that is, I would say, nonpolitical in the general sense that she is talking about the way her life has changed. I’m not asking her who she voted for, if she liked the governor or province chief or anything else and I am asking her something very basic and I notice that some writers could do this, some writers did not. If they asked her what do you think about the government troops that are stationed over here, what do think whether the security situation. That’s man talk. Woman talk is a lot more informative and then she did say something which was neat, she said would you like some soda, she had little concession stand in her house. She pulls back a curtain and she gets bottles of soda and she said would you like ice and I am sitting here, in the middle of Delta, I do not see an ice maker around here. She takes a cloth off of this table and there is a block of ice on the rice chaff, chips up a piece, takes a chaff off, puts it in the glass and we had iced soda. That woman is thinking. That woman is smart. Also, there had to be a generator or refrigerator unit around there in order to make that ice. So she was buying the ice to use to serve cold drinks to people. You got basic capitalism. Grass roots capitalism at work and she is smart enough to do it and she is going to make a living while her husband was the blacksmith across the road. I did not see all that in the other writings, I saw positive writing and three of the other four of those who wrote, probability is the same house. Bluemental, across the street with the husband, did a totally negative article and I found that when I came back, I was clipping the papers and looking at that, and said, oh, I was there. I checked my notes, you know, there were three good writers, leave myself out, and one who is negative, and I said why is this guy negative? It turned out a lot of the New York Times writing was negative. A few guys were good who apparently, as Joe xxxx was telling us, was being edited back at the New York Times office and in one case, he produced his carbons. Jim Lucas, I think it was called him on the carpet about that piece and the reporter said that is not what I wrote that was in the paper, this is what I wrote. They changed it back at the editorial office and that really pissed off a lot of people to find out that, people who tried to be honest in the field were being edited and twisted back home. We also saw that in lot of the editorials. Lot of editorials had no relationship to reality which is why, in 1974, Graham Martin, the Ambassador came here, had a private meeting with Kathleen Graham to talk about what was going on in Vietnam and what was being written in Washington Post and she changed those editorials and that was on September 1974.

One journalistic coup in my life that I am proud of was when Bob Mueller was the aide-de-camp to Ambassador Martin when he came up on the Hill in 1974, I was working for a Congressman and sitting in a hearing, saw Bob and asked where have you been? I’m working for the Ambassador in Vietnam, would you like to meet the Ambassador? I said sure. So we talked and he was a nice guy and I told Bob, I write for Human Events newspaper. Bob says would you like an interview. He says the Ambassador does not give interviews to any newspaper in United States because he hates them, you do not trust him, they distort what he says. I got the exclusive, he was exclusive. I got another one later on and it was interesting that an ambassador would not talk to newspaper reporters. He did talk to U.S. News and World Report, he had one interview there but he had seen so much of distortions of what was going on. You guys saw, I mean you guys were in the field, you know what you were accomplishing might in terms of his work who looked at some civilians were doing, we know guys like Tony Sestero was doing in the civic action programs. You were not seeing that the later on after Tet and one of the things that is really striking, the way you want to look at the news is, there was a German reporter, I think his name was Jules Simonetta, who spoke to us at an Accuracy in Media meeting many years ago, he said when he first got to the Vietnam in about 1967, they were covering atrocities all the time, but, after a while, the editors did not want atrocity stories. There is nothing new, the same atrocity day after day, week after week but that was the war. That was the terrorism that these people had to live with, just like people in Israel had to live with it. So after 1968, after the Hue massacre, you do not see hell of a lot on atrocities. They had Dac Son and there was one called Duc Duc, the orphanage up North, they just dropped off.

I promised the guys before I give you some stuff you had not seen before because I hope you have not been seen this. These are around 60 some thousand names of South Vietnamese who had been kidnapped. We did the title in English, says list of civil servants, cadres and civilians of the Republic of Vietnam abducted by the Communists since 1954. Names, addresses, birth dates, ages, I think it was like the streets where they lived, I will let you know. When you look at this later, let me know if any of you have seen this book, I think it is 64,000 or such, I got to check it. I am pretty sure it is around 1971. It says, since 54, I think it is may be pre-Tet. Some of the print is very small but we will look at that. How many of you have ever seen the names of somewhere around 4000 victims of the Hue massacre. Has anybody here have ever seen it?


Audience: No.


Max Friedman: You are going to see right now, names, ages.


Audience: The count is 3000.


Max Friedman: 4000.


Audience: 4000.


Max Friedman: The total figure they think was 8000.


Audience: Vietnamese would read this off for you.


Max Friedman: Okay. I have got the atrocity photographs here, I mean the military made them available, Cambodians made them available. After all we did not see atrocity photographs in the newspapers. Let’s see, I got 120 of them. I think they say you know leave them laughing, but I am not leaving yet, I will give you something that is funny. This is Vietnam Courier from June 1972 and there was a big debate, that Jane Fonda said we were bombing the dikes in North Vietnam and their culture in this book and a couple of geologists left this for saying this _______ So here is an article on page 15 and the title says Vietnamese dykes bombed by American aircraft. Well there it should be a lot of feminists out there who are very mad at this title because they spelled “dikes” D-Y-K-E-S.” Somebody did not do a good editing job on that.


Audience: 1954 to 1973.


Max Friedman: To 1973.


Audience: 1954 or before 1973 is argumentative.


Max Friedman: Here is one for Bob, since Bob is a law professor, a long time personal time, an old time friend, and I respect him. How many of you here know that there were court decisions ruling that the war was legal. Okay. I am an inveterate clipper and I use these in debates and people, the antiwar people, have no idea what the hell they are talking about. The war is illegal. No, it wasn’t illegal. There was a case in Brooklyn and the headline says “Viet War Ruled Constitutional,” which was July 1st 1970 for the Orlando case. Tonkin Resolution held declaration, US court of Military Appeals gave judicial sanction yesterday to the Johnson administration contention that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was tantamount to a Declaration of War, Washington Post, June 22, 1968. There is another ruling in July 1969 in Kansas. The Federal District Judge rules yesterday that the military action in Vietnam is a “war” in quotes, even though a solemn Declaration of War has not been pronounced by Congress. It’s called the Averett case and there are others in here too, so there are series of articles about the legal issue. There were legal cases, case law. Now they may only have been up to Federal District Court, they never got to the Supreme Court, but I am in the legal field and if you get a case that is sitting there, you know that may only represent a Federal Circuit, that case rules in that area until there is another case which overrules it or affirms it as a precedent case. So I never really saw a tremendous amount of writing by journalists on the legal issues. I know that one, was it the American Bar Association, had a section that did papers or book put out.


Bob Turner: This is a very thick 200 or so page memo that has been written by several people primarily John Norton Moore. [unintelligible]


Max Friedman: So there was a lot of thing that they just did not see out there and these other articles. . . . It’s interesting if you read the Style section of Washington Post. There is a lot of gossip in there and lot of society but every once in a while they say something they sometime wish they hadn’t said. This is about Nick Rowe. July 1972, he said how one escaped prisoner of war planned and they are talking about Rocky Versace being killed and how Nick got out and in the last paragraph of that, actually two paragraphs, Rowe says he had faked his identity for four years until the Viet Cong found him out. Ironically, a peace group trying to find out if he was dead or prisoner sent Hanoi a copy of his biography, after that he was put on the execution list for lying and in the last paragraph he said how was devastating for him to sit in the Viet Cong prison camp and have them reading through war speeches from the Congressional Record.


The antiwar movement was not stupid. Tom Hayden and the others down there were not stupid, posed a pacifist and antiwar and all talk was garbage which I will talk about it in a while but according to military intelligence, people I talked to and to people in the FBI and the congressional communities there were specific groups in the United States who were tasked to give the Communists information on the American military personnel, specifically POWs. There is no way in hell that these people were looking for something to find whether Nick was dead or alive. They were probably given a list that said find out who this guy is and when they did, Nick paid for it, so did a lot of other guys. They would go to the high schools, especially if any information of where the guy was born, where he lived, was put in the paper. They would go into the cities and checked public records, high school books, etc., especially if they came from small towns where they had one source, one high school. They passed it on to the Communists and Communists would evaluate who the prisoner was.

Another case which I know of was that of Dick Dudman. Richard Dudman from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was left. He wasn’t a bad writer but he was almost definitely an ideological left, Elizabeth Pond from Christian Science Monitor was pretty neutral, pretty good writer and Mike Morrow from Dispatch News, very far left. They got captured in Cambodia and Dudman writes, he’s talking about 16 days with the Viet Cong from North Vietnamese that for a couple of week or so they did not know what was going to happen to them. Their press cards have been taken by the VC who was aiding the North Vietnamese and they were sent to Hanoi and here is what happened to the people inside. The Communists checked those names against the list of journalists who could be trusted or not trusted. They saw Pond’s, Christian Science Monitor, they probably did not like her, Mike Morrow, they knew they could trust and dispatch the news, Dick Dudman, big writer from the St. Louis Post Dispatch, writes critical of the Americans, pretty well about us, let him go, but they gave him a royal treatment, they took around for a week or so in Cambodia, in Vietnam and then let them go.

Other guys were not so lucky and that is one thing where you have to realize that as a journalist you have a responsibility. One of the guys from Iraq said it so beautifully, I cannot think of his name but he was a tall guy, he was riding in a tank or an APC, on one of the roads going to Baghdad. They spotted some Iraqis in the bushes with rocket launchers and rifles. They told the gunner that some Iraqis over there are getting ready to shoot us and he said our guy blowed them away. So the moderator -- and they are on MSNBC or CNN said -- how do you feel as a journalist getting involved in a war and he said I am an American first and journalist second. Joe Galloway said the same thing and I am not sure that a lot of the journalists, in fact I know for sure, that some of the journalists, small portion in the Vietnam were not pro-American. Dispatch News, Liberation News Service, probably others just did not want us to win. They did not want to write positive about what was going on. I mean if a guy like me can go there for five weeks in Vietnam then on to Cambodia, to see these tremendous changes in agriculture, land reform program, building generators, transportation, marketing and talk to people and see how life has changed, why can’t these guys do the same thing instead of saying we are losing this, we are losing that, people do not support Thieu, the popular uprising -- which there never was a popular uprising in South Vietnam with Communists. Because, if you knew the Vietnamese people, Buddhists do not support Communism. They do not support something that is godless. They may not like Thieu, may not like Big Minh or Ky or anybody else, but they do not want somebody who is godless and that’s important because they will take the lesser of two evils then somewhere one of these books I have a from the Vietnamese who is a refugee here now said “we made a mistake. Even though we did not like Thieu in the war, we made a mistake by not fighting against the Communists to win.”

Most journalists are not going to tell you this. I think a lot of journalists never got out to meet the Vietnamese people. Those here in this room, especially the guys in the Special Forces, Jim Kerns, who is not here today. Jim said something that was great, besides telling Senator Kennedy go to hell. He said, I think said this during the Amnesty hearings. He said besides the fact that I responded to your brother’s “you would bear any price, any burden.” He said, when I was out with the Vietnamese, I spent a year with them. He said I talk with them, I trained them, I fought with them. I helped them give birth to their kids, I patched up their wounds and I buried their dead. He was saying that he knew the Vietnamese people, Mike knew the Vietnamese people, Dolf did, Bob, you know this, all of you here, there is something we knew the Vietnamese people, I think we had a lot of respect for them, especially those who were some of the really good South Vietnamese forces. We saw the sacrifice. The Cambodians, you would not believe the crap that they were trying to fight with, looked like World War I museum. Another militiaman I interviewed over there and I say something on a personal level. My grandmother lost her family in the Holocaust in Europe. They had lived in a place called Lemburg and they were all wiped out at either Belsen or Auschwitz. I remember the Hungarian revolution in 1956 and I felt really helpless. I cannot standby and not do something. My religious training, my being an American, having grown up in the 1950s. We’re real good people. We do things for other people that other people can’t do and if I can do a good job or be a good journalist in telling what I see. I won’t to tell you you got to believe it, if anything else we got to convince in what I did. I am going to do a best job I can do. You judge my work and make up you own mind. I am not going to lie to you. I have not distorted anything to you. I am just going to try to be honest journalist. I said I was part of the good journalism school. I feel that the guys I knew who were in 30s and 40s couple of Pulitzer Prize recipients were guys who learned on the street and on their feet, they had a knack. They went out and they learned how to dig for news. I had a background in science, in anthropology, archeology and geology. I am taught how to do a research plan. I know that you have this comparative information, you got to try to figure out what you want to do, you got to go up and check your sources and sometimes you get off your ass and get out on the field and go get the information and I look what I write now, things that I’ve written in the past, I look at how accurate it was and I am satisfied with what I did. I can say, I’ve got a clean conscience.

[There are] a lot of guys from Vietnam today who have blood on their hands as journalists. They betrayed the American forces there, they betrayed the civilians there, they betrayed the South Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians and they betrayed the American people. And yet these are guys you see as talking heads and leaders of various newspapers and columnists, editors and it just really pisses me off that they had been able to basically monopolize the news for so many years which is one reason we set up Accuracy of Media which gives somebody a challenge to bring in something else on a professional level. So what I have here are their writings and some of my writings, like it is some of the documents which you had never seen before, I got them off a book shelf in the South Vietnamese Embassy, I am a book keeper, it is in print, got an extra copy, thank you. But I sat down and I have read this and I think that I can say the majority of the journalists in Vietnam were good. I think the smaller the paper, the better the journalists, because they did not have an ideological axe to grind. They did not have a boss behind them, who said you got to write like this, or, you cannot write about that. They said, you go out to be a journalist, chose to be a reporter. The bigger ones, you have a lot of ideology, CBS was the furthest left of all. ABC, NBC, I cannot think of the individual names now. You know, if you met some reporters and read their material. I did not know whether they were good or not. Sometimes with Tom Sayeed, Daily News, was pretty good and a couple of other guys, so I have been always looking at regularly because I knew they could even produce one of the unique piece, would give you a story on something you had not heard before and that is important. You know Susan Sheehan specialized in women’s affairs in Vietnam, and I thought that was pretty good, because I was covering women’s affairs, but when you got into television, you got into a really dirty game and I think that the American television, the Primadona’s, were a disgrace, the cameraman were brave, the back up guys were brave, they did not get the glory and they also did not have any influence on what was being produced, so you could say that Vietnam was a tremendous test to the American media and as an institution, an industry, I think it failed, sometimes not because of journalists fault but sometimes by not preparing their people properly in the history, language, culture. Many of them by having an ideological bias. I mean some of these papers had views were like Pravda. The United Sates is always wrong, the United States had no good modes in the world, United States should not be a superpower, which is something they share with the UN and then if something goes wrong, in effect the government, you did not do this, you did not do that. No, the media has a moral responsibility to report the truth or at least to make a damn good effort to report the truth and in many areas they failed.

I am thinking that embedded reporters in Iraq changed this. My son was over there and he had a tremendous respect for those reporters because they were with the troops 24 hours a day. They shared the same conditions. They were in the same fire. They saw what was going on, the good and the bad and they understood. I love Greg Pelham and ____ for Fox, to me these are sort of the Ernie Pyles of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were with the Grunts and they understand the Grunts and you have CNN (Corrections Never-Never), Fox has done pretty good, MSNBC sometimes has really good people but you could see it in the ratings. You see the people are leaving a lot of traditional television news and they are going to cable, there got to be a reason and what one of them says “the name you can trust,” you know they trust themselves and tell you what they want you to know, once in while you are getting a good story but it has got to be consistent over time and it is got to be accurate, you got to be able to check it and see what is going on. What is going on in Iraq today is very haunting in that you read some of the military journalists, you are going to get a hell of a lot more information about what the military is doing at the grass roots level, especially AUSA Magazine, they had a great issue back in November of what the various teams they had and they had a geological team drilling wells, some other guys with US Geological Survey in water works, they gave them drills and they would go from town to town and about spend two weeks after they are setting up a permanent water drilling. I know a little about geology and they were saying they were not going through the close to surface aqua crest, they were drilling down deeper so you have a permanent source of water for those villages and they would move on and Rabbi Huerta up in Mosul, learned Arabic, became buddies with the Mayor of Mosul, I think it is the one of those who is just killed, and Terta wanted supplies, talk the Mayor there, and they said yeah, what you need. He built the school for the Mayor’s son and they became buddies. Interestingly a Jewish rabbi who was a Chaplain at West Point and the Muslim Mayor of Mosul were friends but they were working together with a common good. In most of the civic action groups, they all did this. You do not see much in the papers today and I am really disappointed in the major press. What can I do, dig stories somewhere but mainly it is up North, you know take anything down in the south, the British had Basra but Americans are elsewhere, the Americans are to the West of Baghdad and we are doing a hell lot of stuff in the cities, and you still do not see it and I have to say why? They are not interested in these stories, they do not know if stories exist, they told not to cover them, only cover the bombings and atrocities and the accidents and not to cover the boring day-to-day improvements in the electricity and training of the police and the restoration of the generating system and the water systems and the oil systems. Again I see some of Vietnam coming back and it can hurt. I can see this getting involved in politics, the politicians are making statements based on what they are getting out of the news media. When John Kerry said in his speech in the Senate that only 3000-5000 South Vietnamese might suffer reprisals if the Communist won. He got that from a Communist group who was putting out propaganda and media repeated it, they never challenged it, they never covered the book I did with the Senate where they came across the Communists of Vietnam. They gave Douglas Pike study on the Viet Cong organization some coverage. They gave Steve Emerson’s [?] book none, which was a tremendous main study on terrorism. Anything like this they basically did not report. The New York Times never contacted me in my life. Washington Post never contacted me in my life. Washington Times contacted me once and they screwed the story up and I had to threatened to sue them before they did it and half assed summary piece and I would just say, you can tell to your people, the audience, you can come up and look at what I have here and apply to your knowledge of the situation.

I have a lot of stuff on the 202,000 political prisoners in South Vietnam. Reporters did not go out to measure the jails and find out they could only hold around 20 to 35 to 50,000 including some of the Chieu Hoi camps but that was the figure that was put out by Bella Abzug aand the other lefties in congress and repeated in the news. In April 1975 I am looking for 202,000 South Viet Cong political prisoners to come out of jail and you you never saw a piece. You never saw a comment on it. You never saw anything about these missing people in South Vietnam. They were written off, you never heard anything about the Hoi Chanhs, who were on the assassination list and there were nearly 200,000 and never heard anything about the 8,000 North Vietnamese ralliers who would be shot immediately. To this date, I have not seen one piece in a paper on the fate on the Montagnards, other than the revolt. or the Hoi Chanhs who were taken out in the boondocks and killed. It even on the Deseret studies in 1982, 1983 on the people coming back from the re-education camps. The figures were around 83,000 killed at that time. We did have a second study for the Ford Foundation and Deseret study. You do not see anybody writing about this and that is where the media is still failing on Vietnam. By putting aside its history, that is what it is saying, you know, this is past, you got to move on to the future. It is up to guys like you. You may not be an historian, you still have stories to tell and the educational program, was it Mike [R J] from the North Carolina, that’s the way to go. Get your facts together, get your presentation together, you go out and you tell the people what you saw and what you know and once you get into the educational system, once you get on to the internet which is now the best weapon we got going and you guys are seeing what went on with Winter Soldier, that Scott’s doing and you’ve got the Swift Boat association people both political group and the nonpolitical group. You are now reaching more people, I had it in my column went out on a Thursday, I got a call Friday from San Diego from a friend I had not seen in 30 years, Bruce Kesler for personal reasons. He saw it on Scott’s web site, called Scott, Scott gives this phone number, he calls me, and this is about 9:30 in the morning and he says hello Max, this is Bruce Kesler. Where do the hell you have been for 30 years. I am trying to find you and now Bruce is running my life and which is why I am here. We got tools and we have got people here with the experience who are finally speaking out and it is going to be recorded and the next job is to get it out into the mainstream to the educational systems, get the Vietnamese to start writing their stories, to tell it not just to the Vietnamese communities, you tell it to the American communities and what they are going to say is, thank you.



Jim McLeroy: I will make a quick announcement. We are going to continue with Bill’s presentation. At 1:15 precisely at 13:15 that is . . . . Okay just remember 1:15, 13:15 is the conference call with David Horowitz. [Administrative items and a break in the taping]


Bill Laurie: One more minute, Steve, it is going to be short and sweet to the point.


What we are going to cover here on the military aspect is the how the military part of systemic whole and was influenced by the legislatures, influenced by the news media, or at least the policy options, the strategic and tactical options were affected by the pressures on the Legislature, the Executive Branch and by the Press, public opinion, news media. Generally, what we can say with certainty and this is going to surprise the American public but as the policy options narrowed, the military options expanded because as our previous speakers have said, the indigenous VC were no longer a strategic threat in South Vietnam. A lot of guys were there in the early 60s, VC units here, VC units there, make no mistake about it. They were tough guys, they did a great job of being bad guys, no question but the indigenous VC were not winning the war, nor, contrary to popular opinion did the North Vietnamese Communists think they could win the war. We were in a three phase protracted warfare. Dennis Moore used a wonderful phrase “the multiplicity wars;” You had your low level guerillas, you had your regional forces and then you had the big guys, regulars, two of them in Vietnamese. They, by Hanoi’s doctrine, were to win the war. Nobody in this country paid attention to what was in Vietnam and what the Communist themselves said despite the fact that anybody could have picked a book and read it in 1960. Bernard Fall translated Truong Chinh’s primer for revolt and he laid out the map exactly what the Communist were going to do and they say we cannot win with guerillas. That is simply revolutionary foreplay. It is all it is. They are like picadors in a bull fight, they cut, bleed, harass and weaken the bull and when the bull is sufficiently weakened, then at the same time they built up their regular forces with modern weaponry, forget the bobby traps, forget the mine fields, they were horrible things, they killed people but war is a cruel mistress, you have to kill enough to win the war. Normandy beachhead was saturated with mines and that did not stop Allied Forces. I do not think from my perspective -- it may differ from a lot of you -- because I had language training because I worked everyday, all the time with the Vietnamese and a lot of time I was head quartered in Saigon but I ended up being TDY in 18 different Provinces, 7th ARVN Division, 9th ARVN Division, 21st ARVN divisions, Soc Trang, Tra Vinh, Ca Mau, all over the Delta. Off duty hours, I could not get enough of Vietnam. I lived in a Vietnamese dimension in society, I talked with Vietnamese people, I talked with Cambodian people down in the Delta. I wanted to learn. I could not get enough of it. So my perspective is somewhat someone who went beyond the cultural barrier and sees the American involvement as someone who is not an American almost, in fact I was an advisor and talking with some of the advisory teams in the Delta and we would be complaining and moaning about the incredibly stupid strategy and we started talking about “those Americans” and then it would dawn on us and I would say, “wait a minute, we’re Americans,” but we looked at America as almost an alien force.

We got off on the wrong foot from the beginning. I am going to start bashing McNamara again, never understood in a clinical sense, I do not mean feel sorry for or empathize and all this nonsense. I mean understands clinically and strategically what the hell is going on in South East Asia, which was a tinderbox, we did not understand the importance of time, you give these guys time to build up and Douglas Pike is one of the very few authors who have ever stated that the Communists were not just destroying, they are building this massive organization in the rural areas. You look at a line and black chart of the communist organization, it defies the explanatory part of the all with the most sophisticated computer scientist, it is an incredible administrator, political psychological manipulation machine. Far more sophisticated than we had. In that respect we were not fighting and they always say, well we are fighting backward guerillas. I mean to tell you. Functionally speaking, there were far more sophisticated than the allied forces, so I would like to a draw distinction between we, in so far, I do not want to discriminate between the Washington side of the fence and the people were on the cutting edge. Often I heard this said before and I have repeated again, I do not know who authored it but if we would have taken the line and block chart in Vietnam and turned it upside down, there was American advisory teams and American forces in the field saying here is what we need and here is what we want you Washington and US Embassy to get rid off. I am not sure the history would not have taken a different course. It is not a joke, I do mean it. Rather than Washington dictating through CINCPAC, through the Embassy and then all away filtering down, no, you talk, we talk, US never happened that way. How do we get out from the bad start. McNamara did not understand anything about South East Asia. Here we had this moderate nation, the paradox is that the situation in South East Asia was that of so called leadership in Washington as a plague was to a village in the Europe in the 1500s. It was clogged by miasmas and humors and witch doctors would cure us and not only did they not know, they would not listen. Bernard Fall, Jean Larteguy, two people who knew so much about South East Asia, tried to talk to the US Embassy staff in the early 60s and they said do not create this huge American presence, here this is a fragile traditional society, you’ll rip it apart. Send people who give a damn, tell them why they should give a damn and some people said, well, you know you just cannot do that, why, they were people who gave a damn and under proper leadership we would have had it. I think the military was complicit and there is a paradox here and I think that we always hear that the military failed in Vietnam. I think the military got better and I am not excusing as early shortcomings but the military improved in doing its job far more than the news media did in doing its job or the United States government did in doing its job. We can go into that later.

The US Military went over there unprepared for Vietnam; nothing new, we weren’t ready for Korea, and we were not ready for World War II. The United States paraphrased the Cindy Lauper song “just wants to have fun.” We didn’t want to go war. We wanted to have fun and I do not mean that in a discouraging manner, that is what life should be where people just go to work, make their pay check, come home and have fun, but we were not ready for it at all. The United States Military went over there focusing too much on what we call Phase II protracted warfare, we have got battalions and regiments out there and we got to kick their butts, which incidentally is exactly what Giap was doing. Giap says the primary purpose in any war is to destroy, to annihilate the enemy’s main force units. So, we went over there chasing around and doing a good job paradoxically against the main force units, we were not stopping them but because you had this Phase I activity going on in recruitment, in training, in building this organization, it kept on growing. A wonderful analogy is trying to mop the floor before you fix the leak. One of the things this insurgency was dependent upon was the Ho Chi Minh Trail. No Ho Chi Minh Trail, no war in South East Asia, and that a mistake is often made in [calling it] the Vietnam War, there was one in Laos and there is one in Cambodia, there was the one in the Republic of Vietnam and there is a border war in Thailand that smoldered on for decades. Thousands of people were killed by Communist insurgents, many of whom were trained in Hanoi beginning in 1962 [1954] -- fact. We went over there not knowing and we should have known that the people should have done their jobs, the leadership should have told us, they should have read the books. They should have understood the enemy. There is a trajectory to this. If it is bad now, it is going to get worse because it is the dynamic with the revolutionary machine is growing. Once it is interrupted, and you can only interrupt it effectively by dealing with what Dennis Warner called “the multiplicity of wars”, you’ve got to hit the phase I, low level guerillas, you’ve got to deal with the regional force and you’ve got to deal with the main force. We never did it. A little bit of an over simplification there but the general statement is true. McNamara again, there is a beautiful line in a book called Straw Giant by Arthur Hadley. Remember, McNamara, he is the Secretary of Defense. He had no qualification for the job – a great bean counter, they should have put him in an accounting office and said Bob this is _____ and he said yes _____- went back and formed a policy. Arthur Hadley said, the Vietnam war is difficult for Bob McNamara because it is about people and ideas and he is weak in those areas. The whole war was people and ideas. The whole bloody war. Ideas in Vietnam, ideas in Laos and people who thought those ideas in those countries and in the United States. Last night we had a presentation over the phone and some of us were gritting our teeth because we did not agree with some of them but one thing that was critical and there was the Colonel citation and what is called Dic Van and that is propaganda in the enemy camp, undermine the resolve at home. McNamara, nobody understood that. We did not show up, the United States Government, and that was their job, they put us out there, they never showed up for the propaganda war and people think propaganda is like lying -- no. Clinically speaking propaganda is listen, all you want to do is see how I think, why I think and explain my reason, so perhaps you consider the validity of what I think. The United States government never showed up and people can argue back and forth, well what we did is, we did that. I look at my experience. I did not go to Vietnam until 1971. I did not start learning anything of substance about Vietnam until I went to Fort Benning. I just spent five years on a college campus and when I got to Fort Benning some of our instructors were former advisors, guys who had been to Vietnam and I know I was going. I wanted to know everything I could. I was not going to be hero at that time and things scared me to death and I mean scared me and I did not want to die but I did not want to do anything stupid and get somebody else killed because I did not know if I will be able live with that, so I tried to learn everything I could. Not out of fear, I was not trying to be a hero or anything I can say. By then I thought it was a hopeless cause, I thought ARVN wouldn’t fight, everybody supports VC, it is just as horrible, just un-winnable, quagmire and a few months later I am outside the My Tho City where the Seventh Division which just slammed an NVA regiment to try to attack Tho San District town in the daytime and the advisor, who I was talking to, had a pressure bandage on his arm, blood seeping out, and he is laughing. He said we are kicking their butt, he did not say “butt” but we are going to keep the language clean. This does not jibe, not only did I not hear this in the United States, I never would have imagined it could exist because ARVN won’t fight, the VC are so tough, and all the Americans, of course, they’re all torturing people, all on drugs and they [just] want to get out of this place and here this advisor going, man, we kicked their butts and it was then -- and I took it personally – because I had tried to learn, I read the news, and all that stuff. You people lied to me over here. The whole giant information machine lied to me. I didn’t like that. Anyhow, from the perspective that I had, and, again working with the Vietnamese people all the time, the military, sitting in the rice paddies with the RF/PF, nothing’s going on, chewing the fat, talking with them. What is your life like? What do you think? I could not get enough of that and I looked at the American presence, all this bloody money coming in, where is that saying where Larteguy and Bernard Fall said “send people who give a damn, for get your money, show you care” and as Jim Morris said in his book, War Story, which I recommend to everybody, he said if you don’t give a damn about the South East Asian people, Montagnards and Vietnamese alike, you do not belong in this country. I do think in the recommendation, had I been in charge, I would said hey, I want to see every American is going to South East Asia after they have gone through Basic, AIT and any other course you can name, you are going to have a two week cram course on this country and this people and what is going on. You know that the little MACV card “10 rules of behavior for Vietnamese?” I do not know what was like when some of you guys were there, but by the time I was there, I was frankly disgusted with the flesh pots and the behavior and of some Americans, not all. Not all by a margin, but it was so visible and it was so offensive to me personally as an American, and I was not career Army, that I told people and I almost got my butt in a sling when I told a captain he was a disgrace to the uniform -- I’m only a lieutenant -- I chewed him out, you know, pay attention to this, you are a guest in their bloody country. Yeah, I know we are running the war and everything else. Had I been in charge, I would have that in my command emphasis and I would have told my MPs, if you see one American pushing around the Vietnamese, you tell him, he is going to break rocks at Leavenworth, not just because he violated, you know, some military order. He is a bloody traitor. He is contributing to the enemy. They were students and there were kids in Vietnam, this is fact and because of how they saw SOME, underline some anyone is listening in the future most Americans behaved very well in Vietnam but that some muddied the water so much that some of these kids out there saw the whorehouses, the obnoxious behavior and they said, you know what, I’m going to join the VC or they would not help the allies.

Now I know from speaking Vietnamese, if you sit down and chew the fat with these people, you’d get a lot of information that you would not otherwise get. They’d been, especially the rural people, that have been treated like crap for all their life, French, Japanese, Mandarin, if you showed, if you sit down and talk with them, bounce their kid on your lap, drink their rice whisky with them, you’d find out a lot of things, a lot of things. My life may have been saved by one lady when I went through a hamlet one time and she indirectly said it is not happy here and I never heard anyone say that, life in Vietnam was tough. But I never heard anyone say, and she said in the familiar sense, “Khong co vui o day, Ong Oi” and she said Ong oi which means old buddy kind of a thing. I thought may be she is telling me something. I was not sure when the red light went on and I very quietly and calmly turned around and walked away.

The United States Military did not understand even though again there were people that could tell them, I think one of the iron laws of Vietnam was lessons learned and all that stuff went up maybe two levels, maybe, sometimes only one and even if it went up two levels it died there. We did not have any continuity with them. What did Bernard Fall said, we were not in Vietnam 11 years, we were in Vietnam one year [eleven times]. In Thailand where they had their Phase I war beginning to bubble up and start, the Thais put together what was called a Communist Suppression Operation Command, CSOC, under a very capable Saiyut Koedphon in 1965. The United Stated did not put CORDS together until May of 1967 and CORDS should have been, had those people in Washington, I do not say we, I do not consider the people here part of they. Had they done that and they had learned and spent two weeks reading Bernard Fall, spent another week talking to Vietnamese, listening to them, some of them are bloody smart, we would have said, hey now we see how this is working, now we see what is going on here, now we see the dynamic. We need CORDS now. We need to train people to be administrators now and if you want to do it on a cheap, then don’t bother because you are putting Spec Four Jones and Ha Si/Binh Si Nhut Nam on the line. You are asking them to risk their life and some of them are going to die and if you cannot give a 100% effort in Washington, DC, then don’t bother. That is criminal negligence in my opinion.

Part of it again was this Ho Chi Minh Trail, we often talk about it, everybody knows but -- okay, right. -- The quest to go in to block the Ho Chi Minh Trail goes back to 1961. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said any concept which deals with the defense of South East Asia that does not include all of or a substantial portion of Laos is from a military standpoint unsound. What is needed is not the – key phrase here-- spreading out of our forces throughout South East Asia but rather a concentrated effort in Laos where a firm stand could be taken saving substantially all parts of Laos, at the same time protect Thailand and the borders of South Vietnam. No Ho Chi Minh Trail, the aorta is cut off and the insurgency is over with. The Communist have since admitted that. They have said “We were scared to death in Hanoi that Johnson would give permission to Westmoreland to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail and we’d be in deep doo-doo.” In 1962 the Thais, they live in the neighborhood, maybe they have something to say, they said let’s go in on an multi-lateral joint operation to cut, block and hold the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This gives you also an onus, not just military, it is the propaganda war. Here is the Laotian agreement. North Vietnam signed it. We have taken all our forces out of Laos. Here are 15 NVA POW’s we have in Laos and we should have turned the pressure on Hanoi and said when are you going to stop lying and we should have told the rest of the world that and, if the rest of the world did not like it, we should have said shame on you. Here is a list of 1500 people who were assassinated in Vietnam last month. Some were impaled. Some were impaled on stakes. Some were disemboweled. Some of them had their head cuts off. You people want to let this go on? If you do, that is your problem, not ours, we’re good guys. It never happened. Paradoxically those are military -- even though I think a lot of should be said that is critical of it -- the military began to learn and has accomplished miracles. The bad guys were really good at being bad guys. South Vietnam was ready to fall in 1965. The battle of the Ia Drang was truly a turning point in history, truly. First Cav elements literally took the water buffalo of history and turned him around and made him go in another direction. Had it not been for the First Cav at the Ia Drang, South Vietnam would have fallen that year. In all probability, in fact, in Hanoi -- in Hanoi they said, this is the year we are going to win and, by the way, they sent NVA regulars down Ho Chi Minh Trail before the Tonkin resolution.

The United States military started to wise up. We had CORDS and out of that. . . . Rich Webster was on a mobile advisory team. We were finally getting down and training these RF and PF and one of the problems the South Vietnamese had was leadership. That was not a 20th century country. You go out in the rural areas and sure they had District Chiefs, sure they had Province Chiefs, but they did not have this societal machine that was assembled in North Vietnam with brilliant propaganda and total societal control and that did not exist at all. When the MATs went to work on the advisory teams actually South Vietnamese, in my point of view, they overcame their inferiority complex, because again the bad guys were great, they were really good at being bad guys and too many people watch army movies or military movies and they do not realize it is an art form, lethal, disgusting what every you want to call it, but it is an art form, and you do not get good until you have been blooded.


Steve Sherman: We’ve got cut it short.


Bill Laurie: Okay, I am sorry. When we went in there, we had let the situation get out of hand, now you have got to send main force American units in there, now your time is against this. We do not have time to train the South Vietnamese to let them learn, let them, in fact, get blooded. Now it is emergency time. When we finally were forced into Vietnamization it was way too late, we did not give them enough time. Up until 1968, I think only 5% of RVNAF, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces -- every one says ARVN, that is the Army -- there was Marine, there was Navy, there was Air Force, there was Biet Dong Quan, RF, PF, National Field Force Police, all these elements of RVNAF and they were finally getting new weapons and, again, people do not understand if you never shot, you do not realize that if it was one against one and one guy has on M1 carbine and the other guy has got an AK, the guy with the AK has got the advantage. So it was only then we started to modernize them. Part with the reason for delay in Vietnamization was, again, McNamara. Westmoreland went to McNamara and said I need more equipment, supplies, training aids to make the South Vietnamese self-sustaining.

Steve Sherman: We’ll continue again tonight.

Bill Laurie: Okay. give me two more sentences and then I will go. McNamara said no. Westmoreland went to McNamara and said we need to inform the American people on a the people-to-people program, let them know who the Vietnamese are, the South East Asians are, the Montagnards are, McNamara said no.

Steve Sherman: To be continued.

Bill Laurie: To be continued.