Examining the Myths of the Vietnam War

The Vietnamese Point of View

Steve Sherman: All right. We are going to proceed here with some speakers and I will let them introduce themselves, but Mike and Bill, Bill will later come into this. Right now Mike. He got away. You have to introduce yourself, okay. Let me make one comment here. What we put up at the website we have a number of bulletin boards over there where people could throw comments in and I was surprised at some of the comments that came and also I was surprised at where some of the comments came in there [from], but I got from a friend of mine -- well, I think he is a friend of mine -- I got a comment as to why are you doing this thing without discussing Amerasians? Well, shortly after that, I got somebody who wanted to discuss Amerasians. So, we were asked, we do it.

Michael Sheppard-Nguyen: Good afternoon everyone. How are you today?

Audience: Fine.

Michael Sheppard-Nguyen: Thank you. I will talk a little bit about my show. My name is Michael Sheppard and they call me an Amerasian. Amerasian, my daddy is American soldier. A lot of Americans, when I ask this question, you know who an Amerasian is? A lot of people, they don't know, a lot of people they don't know and they don't know what is going on after 1975. Today, I want to talk about Amerasian after 1975. I have some information. In 1975, we have 65,000 Amerasians in Vietnam. On April 30, 1975, when South Vietnam fall down, all American soldiers come back to United States, the baby is left behind. The Communists, they take all the baby Amerasians and put in the jail. My mom got killed in 1968. The reason they killed my mom because my mom got married with American solider; that is disgrace. Tell me why. I don't know why, when my mom loved my daddy and they got married, that is the reason the Communists, they kill my mom. It is not fair. In 1975, if any baby got the brown hair, blue eye, tone or whatever, it’s the baby Amerasian, is loaded to hell, loaded to jail. I have been in the jail for six years and eight months when I was only nine-year-old. Little boy, I worked for eight hour to ten hour per day. Every single day, I carry a lot, the body of my friend who didn’t grow. They die because they don't have medicine; they die because they don't have food, because they are too small for work, too hot outside. They die because they don't have food and they go to jungle, they got some of the mushroom, and some mushroom got the poison and they eat the mushroom with poison and they die. One day I carry 12 little girls, put in the ground and nobody knows that. I am the witness. I asked a lot of people what Amerasians doing wrong because I never having the gun or I never killed nobody. Why they hurt like this? Did John Kerry have no mother? No, he doesn’t know. I don't feel right because why we have support for enemy, why we support, why we give the Communists, Vietnam Communists, money. It is 29 years after the War is done. I got a lot of pictures on my hand right now. They killed 6,800 people in 1968. That night we called New Year night and that night they killed my mom and they killed my uncle. I lost my family in 1968 on that night and in the part of Hue, Vietnam 6,800 people got killed only one night. 1975 and 2004, we have still a lot of people got killed. You ever heard about a [unintelligible] the people in the park in Vietnam [unintelligible] to Cambodia. The VC Communists and the Cambodia Communists, they take the people and they cut the head off. This is Human Right John Kerry is talking about? This far, if the people [unintelligible] 21 years in 2004. I grew up in United States; I came to the United States in 1990. I think a lot about my father. I came to United States with both my hands, I worked two jobs, I be right up with my family and now I be with the group, with the young people fight for freedom for Vietnam. You guys all can visit my website www.humanrightsforvietnam.org. All information about human rights are present there. I just ask with all you have what we can do right now. How we stop the Communists when they keep killing the people? How we can stop them? In the War, when we are fighting, they kill the people it is okay, but now it is 29 years over. They still kill a lot of people, a hundred people die everyday. How we can stop them? How we make the Vietnam Human Rights? How we could have the freedom for religion. In Vietnam, if you said God is like Jesus or God is Buddha, you go to jail. God is Ho Chi Minh; Ho Chi Minh is the God they say, the Communists they say. They don't have freedom for religion, they don't have freedom for speaking anything. My friend in Vietnam go to the website, any website in United States, they have the power and they log off. The young people in Vietnam can't go to any website out here, there is no freedom in there. I heard John Kerry talking about Human Right Act for Vietnam and he said he will approve Vietnam, we have the human right; no it is not. One thing is very hurting when the people say and we people heard it. Now they sell the people. If you have $500, you can buy one lady, $500. They put people sell the girl on the eBay, four girls on eBay for sale. They sell the baby, the girl was 7-year-old, 9-year-old to Cambodia for having sex toy. What we can do, how we stop them? How we stop that business because that is illegal business, they sell people business, we need to stop them. All sit down here, all we have family. If your wife or your children got for sale like that how hurt it is, our children very hurt. I told my daughter, I say, ‘you are a very lucky girl because you are born in United States. If you were born in Vietnam, may be they will get you and they sell you to Cambodia, to somewhere.’ The lady, 18-year-old and 22-year-old, $500. They say the lady market, 20 girls, 30 girls, you can pick up anytime you want with $500. I have the group. We say the Young Fight for Freedom, but we don't have power; we don't have money, and we don't have a spirit to fight with Communists. I know Communists, they are strong, they got billion and billion dollar, but we work very hard. We work because we love the people. We love my land mom [motherland], my Vietnam, worked very hard and we came to admire. I go around anywhere, I ask for your help. Could you any power you have to Congressmen, to Senator, to White House whatever, stop Communists do that business, sell the people to another country, sell the baby to another country, and stop killing the people. Every time I look on the picture, they take the baby. Who said Vietnam have freedom? No, the Vietnam life in the Communists is the hell and I had been in the hell for six years and eight months. We love 42,000 Amerasian babies. My friend died in my arms because they are too small. Even the old people, like 18 or 22, if you live in the jail with no food, you die. We have a baby girl, little girl, a little boy, when we get sick in the jungle because the jailers they put all of us in the jungle and mountain, we got sick, we don't have a doctor, we don't have any medicine and we got sick and we go. Everyday we have a little food liner, we need to work for like eight to twelve hours outside in the rain, and so cold mountain. Every single night we have somebody, have something go. I want to write a story. I want to let all the people in the world know, I want to let all American people know about this, know about your children left behind but in Vietnam I can't go to school because I lived in the jail. I don't know how to write too much. I have learnt English on the TV, I have learnt my English on my job. I look at people talking and I learn that word, because after 1975, all Amerasian people, we can't go to school. That is why we have the Bill 3260 approve for Amerasian automatically come to American citizen, because my father American and I am American. Why I have a caste, and all we don't have to go to school because Communists, they don’t let me go to school. No school for Amerasian. You go to jail. Even the mother language, we can talk but we cannot write because we never had class, we never go to school, we cannot go to school, we go to work. How we can learn English? The difficulty is my dream, I want to write my story, my life, I want to let all the people know, I want to let all American soldiers, Vietnam vets know what your child left behind after 1975, what is going on, where they are. In America, Amerasian family office, I work for them when I go to Philippines and I work in California. We have only almost 22,000 Amerasian come to United States. We lost more than 45,000 baby lost after 1975. Where they are? Or they got Vietnam Communists killed them off because their father is American soldier, that is only one reason, because the baby like me, we never go fighting, we never go kill VC, because we are little boy but they kill the baby because their father is soldier. I heard John Kerry went to Vietnam before. He said a soldier go to Vietnam for they kill the people, kill the baby, blah blah blah. I want to ask him, how many babies, how many people John Kerry killed in Vietnam when he was in service. Did he have some baby in Vietnam? That is my question I want to ask John Kerry. Did he know anything about Amerasian in Vietnam? He don't know nothing about it. All he knows is business and money, but he don't know. The reason I wanted to come up today and talk about this because I need all your help. Now, we have the Bill for Human Right as on the Congress, they just passed about two weeks ago that they will cut support for Communist Vietnam, we don't send the money, because I think why, I have worked hard, I pay the tax for my country. That money is useful for United States. That money is not sent to Vietnam. Then why we stop support Vietnam Communists. If you give them more money, they buy more weapons and they kill more people. That is what they do. If they don't have money, they don't buy weapon. If you give more, a billion dollar, they buy more tanks, they buy more AK-47 and they kill more people. Then why, what we can do just stop them. If we want to stop them, we need to pass the Human Right Act in the Senate and Congress. That Bill must be passed. Don't let John Kerry whole lie the first time on 201 (the first bill) and I ask that everybody can have, write a story, write the newspaper something about Amerasian. Let all Vietnam base or American people know about the baby in Vietnam because all the people they don't know about this and we have another Bill called Amerasian automatically become American citizen and that Bill is still in Congress too and I am fight for that Bill. I want that Bill passed in the Congress because all we don't go to school. If now go and take the test, we fail, all will be failed. That the third reason, second reason is all we American. My father American, I am American, this is my land, this is my father country. It is only different that I am born overseas, but now father comes back to country, I have come back to country, I need and demand citizenship automatically. I don't need to look like I am not a person from oversees come here. That is my feeling. Some may be wrong, may be right but it is my feeling. The last one I want to say I don't care what John Kerry say, I don't care the TV or the newspaper whatever they say. That all Vietnam vets, all the baby sit down here, you are a hero in my heart. From my bottom of heart, you are a freedom fighter. You fight for freedom. You save a lot of the people in Vietnam because after 1975, throughout the country, the Communists killed a million Vietnam people, but when the time you are there in Vietnam you save a lot of Vietnam people back there. That I why I don't care what the people say. The Vietnam vet is still hero, it is freedom fighter. Thank you very much.


Mike Benge: I would like to make one slight correction. Vietnam Human Rights Act has not cut off aid to Vietnam. It only caps at the oh-four levels, 2004 level, the nonhumanitarian-aid, that is not the humanitarian aid and it does not cut off aid to Vietnam, it only caps it at the 2004 level.


Audience: Where is it?


Mike Benge: It is now in the US Senate and Senator Brownback is supposed to be drafting a similar Bill in the Senate now. Is John Kerry going to get elected?


Steve Sherman: Also, I think the Johnson Vanik Amendment was far more stringent than this Human Rights Bill.


Audience: Jackson-Vanik.


Steve Sherman: Jackson-Vanik.and I really personally can't really see why we don't get this accomplished.


Nguyen Khac Chinh: Good afternoon ladies and gentleman. May I introduce myself? I am a lawyer from Vietnam and now I am a Vietnamese-American. I would like to congratulate you and thank you for having been fighting in Vietnam. See this [unintelligible], isn't it. Thank you for your sacrifices, your sufferings, your injuries, your pains, and death. We talked about the spirits of your fallen comrades are here because in this very home, I salute them and invite them to our meeting. You are Vietnam veterans. So let us speak in Vietnamese and all refresh your memory. Either you understand me or the sounds of the Vietnamese language. We will rock your dreams I hope. I see that many among of speak Vietnamese and understand it. I am very happy.


Nguyen Khac Chinh: [Speaking in Vietnamese] Let me tell you a story which happened long ago, yet it remains so contemporary. This is the story of the "paper tiger".


Before and after April 30, 1975 I did not leave Vietnam, nor did I follow the fleeing horde. Not only did I stay in the country, but I also set up an organization called the "National Liberation Front". We fought the Communists with whatever we possessed, hidden firearms, a radio station with 1 kilometer range, a printing shop to supply us with both pamphlets and counterfeit Vietnamese currency.


The day I was arrested, on December 27, 1975, at 9:00 a.m., a Communist policeman grumbled as he handcuffed me,


"A thousand armies and ten thousand horses cannot beat us, what can you do, a weakling who can't even tie up a chicken?"


I thought it was just a passing profanity, but the guy pointed his finger to my face exacting a response. I retorted,


"I fight you with what a thousand armies and ten thousand horses cannot prevail!"


"What is it?"


"This!" I showed him my head.


I stayed back in Vietnam because I could not believe the Americans could have skedaddled. They must have a plan for a victorious come back, or at least a decent retrieval within 3 or 5 years. Yet 3, then 5 years passed by. On Dec. 27, 1993, at exactly 9 a.m., I was finally released from prison thanks to the intervention of Pen International, I had been the first finalist with my short story written in French in an international literary contest in 1966.

I was flabbergasted when I learned that the U.S. was about to establish diplomatic relations with the Vietnamese communists, which meant that the 17 years of my youth spent in prison were in vain! No wonder the Communists had been repeating to me that the Americans were "a paper tiger" which I had vehemently refuted. For 2 years they had interrogated me. One of their questions had been, "What do you think of the Americans before 4/30/75? And how do you evaluate them since that date?" My response had to be in writing. I had been allowed to write for as long as I needed instead of doing hard labor. After 6 months, they had forced on me their answer that the Americans were a paper tiger. A tiger for all it looked, armed to the teeth, using the most advanced methods of killing, feeding itself on living flesh, but to and behold! this tiger was made of paper because it was beaten when confronted with the Communist wooden sticks, hammers and sickles.

A paper tiger, indeed! This tiger was trounced by the Vietnamese Communists and fled to save its own skin, leaving behind solemn promises, longstanding friends, and its very honor in order to survive in shame and contempt.

So, what then, were the causes of the American defeat? How could a real tiger become a paper tiger? One of the causes should be found in the "anti-war cry" of a Jane Fonda, coupled with the "guilt" of a Vietnam veteran, a medal-studded hero of the Vietnam war, a John Kerry who is toying with the hope of becoming a future American president, a commander-in chief of the American army which he deprecated and betrayed!

A strange phenomenon which "ten thousand" books on the Vietnam war have not singled out, dissected, accurately assessed, is the fact that after 4/30/75, in the eyes of the Vietnamese Communists, the Chinese Communists, and the whole world, the Americans look formidable but, in reality, they are only a "paper tiger". A small gang of Vietnamese Communists was enough to chase them away!

Is this the end of the story? Not yet. There ensues a lesson. The lesson teaches that bravado can browbeat the Americans. Fight them, and they back out!

This lesson, unfortunately, was not learned by a John Kerry, a John Edwards, a Hillary, or a Kennedy, but it became the bible for Bin Laden, Osama, Omar, Saddam Hussein and their likes. "Quod isti et istae, cur non ego?" The Vietnamese succeeded, why not us, a thousand times stronger and richer than they?

Thus, the Americans were put down, and became a target for attack. To cite only the attack on 2 American embassies, the assault on the American military headquarters in Saudi Arabia, the one on the USS Cole warship, and recently the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon.

Let's frankly admit the truth even if it hurts. Which truth? The truth that the April 30, 1975 misfortune triggered the September 11, 2001 tragedy. If there weren't 4/30/75, there wouldn't be 9/11/01 ! Still, they are clamoring for troop withdrawal ! Withdrawal from Iraq after Vietnam? Where else and when? Until there is no more American soil to come back to?

To denounce the Iraq war on the grounds that Iraq did not possess arms of mass destruction, that Iraq had no ties with Al Qaeda, is tantamount to saying that it was the best policy not to arrest or destroy Bin Laden ! Bill Clinton might have felt qualms about arresting or destroying Bin Laden for fear that American voters and the world would condemn him, just as G. W. Bush is condemned because he ousted Saddam Hussein. As a consequence, Bin Laden was allowed freedom to act. Then came 9/11/01, and public opinion accused the Administration for not having arrested or killed Bin Laden. The same would happen if Iraq were not attacked, if Saddam Hussein were not removed from office, and if 9/11/01 were to repeat a few times, G. W. Bush, as the president, would be blamed for not anticipating and acting promptly at the right time. Those misconceptions and contradictions only happened when individual ambitions prevailed over reason and public interest.

Furthermore, there is also a lack of circumspection and knowledge. "Speak up when you know, if you don't, just listen." Don't pretend to ignore you are ignorant.

They haven't, so far, understood why the U.S. should go to war in Iraq. The cause is not the WMD, as the gossip goes. Granted that Iraq could have had WMD, some nuclear bombs and a few tons of biological weapons wouldn't have worried the Americans so much as kids being threatened by a cane. Let's remember that, in the past, thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads pointing at the U.S.A. could not have deterred the Americans. On the contrary, the Americans kept on harassing their enemy day and night until the USSR surrendered.

Now, why the war in Iraq? Those shortsighted politicians did not grasp the justification behind the Iraq war. Left to themselves, only a few months in office, not even the whole presidential term would suffice to reduce the U.S.A. to a doll's shirt. Did they see the difference between the Afghan war and the Iraq war? How could they fathom the more consequential reasons behind the Iraq war?

In fact, in the Afghan war, the U.S. had been placed in a defensive position. A mere tramp had had the impudence to strike her an almost deadly blow. The invincible U.S.A. could not have predicted that because she had backed out of Vietnam, she had diminished her world esteem, and that, being a tiger in the flesh, she had shrunk into a "paper tiger" whom the Vietnamese Communists had skinned alive and displayed for all to see, claiming they had caught the mighty tiger, an example to be followed by others. On the contrary, the Iraq war, in which the U.S. played an active role, was meant to eradicate any future adverse happenings. If Iraq hadn't collaborated with Al Qaeda, it had, nevertheless, remained the king of repression and terrorism, only steps away from Al Qaeda. Thus, "Birds of a feather flock together." Consequently, 9/11/01 had to be eliminated in self-defense and in the defense of the world. Obviously, Bin Laden would have company, and together with Saddam Hussein, both had to be removed because the latter would never forgive the U.S. for having kicked him out of Kuwait. Not to mention some other countries which, either through resentment, hate, or envy, had taken advantage of the murky situation to act against the U.S. Should the U.S. wait until Saddam Hussein possessed the WMD to act, adverse opinions would tax the Administration with being sluggish and negligent. When the Administration decided to act, they complained about the incomplete proofs of WMD and collaboration with terrorists!

That's the price freedom and democracy have to pay for the services of opportunists. War and peace signify law and order. If you want peace, make war, "Si vis pacem, para bellum."

It is also the price paid to "hateful egotism" which turns white into black, right into wrong, thus creating an absurd and grotesque picture of America! Imagine a country at war that, while needing all the support it could mobilize to fight for a good cause, reviles against itself, calling itself wrongdoers and liars. They think they vilify the Administration, but who is the Administration? They themselves helped elect it to represent them. Therefore, they are vilifying themselves!

What a subject of ridicule! What a mess! What a loss! The Vietnamese experience, the "paper tiger experience" are not enough to wake them up. They want to change the paper tiger into a worm to be stomped under foot! Just listen to John Kerry - John Edwards, and you'll see ! The U.S. will even lose its title of "paper tiger".



Steve Sherman: My apologies for not making sure that everybody had the translations in hand here before we started. There are some copies floating around here. All the media that are present here have a copy.


Audience: Do you have any extra copies?


Steve Sherman: I am not sure how many extra copies we have. -- Thank you very much -- but I will post this on the internet on to this session. Is that fair enough?


Audience: Yeah.


Steve Sherman: What I propose right now is that I give you the long overdue break for one hour and a quarter. [Break] I met this young man at Texas Tech a couple of years ago. He gave a very impressive talk and it was so impressive I brought my grandson next year to Texas Tech because I expected him to be there give an equally impressive talk. Well, he wasn’t there because he was having a meeting (as it was described by his good friend who was there) he was having a meeting with the VC. That’s a problem, I really wanted him to meet my grandson. The VC was having a meeting with were the Venture Capitalists. There has been a lot of progress in his life since he came to United States as a young refugee about ten years old and doing business with the Venture Capitalists is different than running away from the VC. I will give you his biographical information here instead of playing coy with you. He arrived as a 10-year-old war orphan. His father was a Vietnamese pilot, who was captured and put into reeducation camps. His father could have left the country but chose not to do so while he sent his wife and son away. After he graduated from UCLA, he became a Marine -- good plan. His served as helicopter pilot in the first Gulf War and he has a number of business ventures that he has been in; he has written a number of books and publications which are quite interesting and if we are lucky in about three minutes, he will give us a call. And if we aren’t lucky, I have got something else from him that I will read to you anyway. While I am over here, I will read you another message that I got today in the e-mail and this message is so unusually significant -- if I can find it -- but it is actually quite typical of the messages I have received and Max probably would be interested in the totality of these messages. I don't know who this guy is. ‘My thoughts and prayers are with you and your fellow veterans as you meet in Boston this week. The only coverage I have heard of your seminar is on the Geoff Metcalf show, but I am hoping the event is going well. We need to ask you Vietnam veterans to whom we have already owe a great deal to find one more battle for us all and that may well be the most important battle of all, the disgraceful and traitorous John Kerry from achieving the Presidency of our great nation.’ We didn’t come here with specific political objectives and we came here in this last battle, but this last battle is the writing of the history and the two tend to go hand-in-hand. The history is being distorted in this presidential campaign and has been distorted for a long time and that is one of the things that we are trying to approach over here. I have got a number of messages like this; there is a whole section on the website where you probably haven't seen it yet, because it has gotten hidden away, where people put in their comments and we collect some more. You talked about having something like this for a press release, but I am looking at this more as a need to have the discussion that we are having and to make it wider. So, I will be happy to work with you and give you that information, so you can try to put it together in some comprehensive fashion.


Audience: I have seen some of your own quotes and all the others [INAUDIBLE].


Max Friedman: The main road in basically two paragraphs, well I think becomes the soul of this meeting. I am going to jump into my shoes as a historian for a moment because that is what the government says they pay me for, who wants to fight one more battle for us all and it is not even about John Kerry as a politician and I was talking to John O’Neill for the first time, I read his original speech that he didn’t give before Congress in 1971 and the thing was he wanted to reclaim the honor of the Vietnam veteran that had been besmirched in the story by Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War and lot of other people and this is….let us come back to this again, we can't talk to him as yet, all right.


Quang X. Pham: Hello.


Steve Sherman: Hi. Can you hear us? Can you hear us here?


Quang X. Pham:  I can hear you.


Steve Sherman: Hi! We’ve got you here very well. In fact, it is probably one of the better hookups we’ve had here. I’ve got your picture up here on the screen and I’ve given them a brief biography of your background, but in this session here, we are really looking at the Vietnamese point of view. I wanted to give you an opportunity to say some of the things, particularly what you wrote in …… the journal article or any other things you care to comment on.


Quang X. Pham: Well, how am I coming through?


Steve Sherman: Very well.


Quang X. Pham: Well, good evening from the West Coast. I wish I was there with everybody and I just want to make sure I thank all the United States Vietnam veterans, as well as all veterans of the Armed Forces of Vietnam present. Thank you for your service. I believe it is an important time for the country and I really appreciate Sherman for inviting me on this to talk about the Vietnamese perspective on the war. The Vietnamese perspective, just like the American perspective, is quite diverse. It depends on who you talk to. Obviously, the North has a perspective, the southern folks have a perspective, those who left in ’54 and migrated South have a perspective, those who left Vietnam before ’75 to come to United States, France have a perspective, those who left in April of ’75 have a different perspective and those who left by boat or by the Orderly Departure Program or by the Humanitarian Operation Program. So let me just say that the Vietnamese perspective is very, very wide. It is safe to say that the primary perspective on the war as far as the media is mentioning today of what happened 30 years ago is opposite of what most South Vietnamese have experienced over the years.


First, I am going to explore many of the scenes -- I won’t got into them too deeply here on the phone -- but they are in my book which is coming out next year. Number one, I would say, why is the perspective lacking? Why is this Vietnamese perspective lacking as far as the expat and the South Vietnamese perspective lacking. I would say the loser mentality but it is because we did lose and after the ’75 a lot of people who got out, and let you remind you that a lot of the people who got out is less than 7% of the total population of Vietnam, a 130,000 got out in ’75 and about 2.7 million live outside of Vietnam now out of the 20 million or so Vietnamese in the South in 1975. So it is not a whole lot of people. A lot of people got out were busy with life, coming to a new country, bringing families over, reuniting with people they haven’t seen for a long time and it is busy. Life as a refugee, just like life as an immigrant, could be a shock. So, for many years Vietnamese didn’t have the time to talk about the war, not with their kids, not with their friends and definitely not with the American public. Secondly, the media’s portrayal of South Vietnamese over the years has not been kind. The perspective of that view of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam could be summarized as three main key points. One, they were corrupt. Two, they were inept, and three, they were unwilling to fight. My father entered military service in 1954 along with many South Vietnamese who were answering their call of duty. There was a draft, at the Vietnamese Air Force, VNAF for all volunteers and he fought that war longer than any person I know, American or Vietnamese. He, outside of four years, like most of his peers, were in country and served until ‘75. After ’75, they had to pay the price at reeducation camp, then hard labor camps. Number three, what happened after ’75? Let me back up. Point number 2 was should the US have been there in the first place? I think I have seen the syllabus. The United States, over the years has shown to be in Vietnam as early as the 1940s with the Flying Tigers’ flying mission over Hanoi, that was in 1942 when I believe the predecessor of the CIA, the OSS, was in Hanoi talking to Ho Chi Minh back in 1945, which [inaudible] powers on specific US opinion in the first place that obviously got someone to question the need to be addressed. United States encouraged support for South Vietnam a long time before Saigon fell. And lastly, look after 1975. Over 3500 books in English have been published in the United States about the Vietnam War. The majority of the books ended in ’75. Well, I’ve penned an op-ed piece in the LA Times on May 5th which you are talking about, yeah that as an issue. Certainly, as far as most partisan perspective and a lot of Vietnamese concerned, the United States had abandoned South Vietnam. I would say, well, if that is black and white as that, how much more can you ask a country to give? United States gave South Vietnam aid for over 20 years, sacrificed 58,235 lives, giving it over 150 billion dollars. When you compare that to what is going in Iraq after 18 months, certainly the Iraq timeline is much more aggressive than the Vietnam timeline ever was. After ’75, from ’75 to ’79, the country basically shut down from the outside world, a million in South Vietnamese soldiers, government teachers were rounded up for reeducation camps. About 50,000 died of malnutrition, a few were executed from trying to escape or oppose their captors. In nearby Cambodia, over two million died in their killing fields. The Dominos didn’t fall but the blood kept flowing and my point in the op-ed in May was that, well, if we pulled out of Iraq, that’s fine and dandy but all those people who retrain, all those people who became liberated from Saddam Hussein in April of 2003. What is going to happen to them? If you tell me or if the government tells me, ‘we don’t care’ well, I think part of the reason why the Vietnam syndrome lingered for so long was that there were a lot of Americans who cared to what happened to refugees from Vietnam, and there were a lot of prayers, a lot of love passed to get us all over here, but that the price we paid to get people out and we are grateful. I am definitely grateful that my mom, my father survived the reeducation camps and we got an opportunity, but I believe the exit strategy in Vietnam was not well thought out and the exit strategy from Vietnam was definitely not well thought out. I do think that Americans can expect because of the pullout of a certain place if things aren’t going right or they like another red policy, but America does have a higher moral in that America should think about the exit strategy and perhaps of the people we were trying to help in the first place. My last point is, if we don’t think about that, just like Vietnam, should we think about going into any place at all? Thus, given that we are going to take care of the troops that we sent overseas, the men and women, who were answering the call of duty. Thank you very much for your time. I just wanted to say once again, thank you for all the veterans who have served our country, Vietnamese and Americans, and that you have answered a difficult call of duty and when I look back at what I call my 100-hour war - Operation Desert Storm, I am humbled. My father and most of the people in Vietnam went through a 10,000 day war and after all, before he died my father was able to come to feet with it all and looking back and saying, ‘I don’t want you to look back,’ I don’t look back. A great [inaudible] when I get to see my kids and my family again. It is those people who did make it out, the Americans, the Vietnamese, that we should be grateful for. Thank you very much.


Steve Sherman: Thank you.


Quang X. Pham: I don’t know if there are other speakers, but I will be glad to take some questions now.


Steve Sherman: We are trying to get the microphones organized. We have to get the microphones working to get things on tape. So, here is the first question from Lee Lanning.


Michael Lee Lanning: Yeah, hi. First of all, thank you for your service to our country. I think it counts no matter what war it is in and I am sure you did a great job. My question is, tell us a little about the book that you have written and what you are going to be focusing there. It looks like it can be a major book, sounds looks like…it is a Random House in print, is that correct?


Quang X. Pham:  It is a Random House in print; it has been a long journey, and the book, it is going to be called The Passage to Peace: My father, the Marines, and the aftermath of Vietnam. [Final Title: A Sense of Duty] It is looking back at my father’s service over 21 years, at his reeducation camp. It is going to be about the great opportunity that this country gave me in terms of freedom, citizenship and an opportunity to pursue my childhood dream which was to serve my country. Had I been in Vietnam, I would have followed my father’s footsteps and become a VNAF pilot, but instead I did that here and then coming strife with the aftermath of the war, mostly my reviewing with my father in 1992 until his passing away in 2000. My hope is that it would shed a little more light on the aftermath of war more than what happened during the war. Now, this is a great country, no doubt about it. In the history of our country only two types of people have been allowed to come in, the United States, in mass, and that is the Vietnamese and the Cubans. No other immigrant group or refugee group has been allowed immigrate in that large a number and this is in the face of some congressional opposition is that what you find primarily from the Democratic side that didn’t want the refugees to come here.


Steve Sherman: Jon?


Quang X. Pham: Did I answer your question, sir?


Steve Sherman: Yes, he says. Jon?


Jon Cavaiani: You are able to get back into Vietnam now?


Quang X. Pham: I made a trip back in ’95, the day after I was discharged from active duty, I alighted in Saigon, which was week before they celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of Saigon or should I say, we, this is a bad day for all Vietnamese overseas, but people of Vietnam call it a Day of Liberation depending on which side of the war you stayed on. Actually, we have no grudge with the folks overseas; I went back in ’95.


Jon Cavaiani: I was curious. We had a young gentleman here who was an Amerasian, who is here in America now and he was just talking about the plight of the Amerasians post 1975 and I was wondering if you had any input?


Quang X. Pham: Certainly. I remember the generation kids in the refugee camps at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, in May of 1975 and having grown up in the United States all through the years, sometimes kids, probably out of ignorance and just being kids could be mean. Those kids with blue eyes and yellow hair that were half American and half Vietnamese, Amerasian kids, what they are called Bui Doi “the Dust of Life”. They were victimized in the camps, but sadly when they got Vietnamese, not the refugee camp, myself included we got to our first destination and for myself it was Oxnard, California. Other people went to different parts of the country. We became the odd kids out; so we had a little taste of what it was like to be different. I believe that United States Congress passed the Homecoming Act in the late ‘80s, which allowed many Amerasian kids to come over to United States. Certainly, Amerasians in Vietnam weren’t the only ones and most of services of that area confessed there were a number of Amerasians in the Philippines as well, but that under a wartime condition.


Nam Pham: Hi, Quang.


Quang X. Pham: Hello.


Nam Pham: My name is Nam Pham. People may think that we are cousins because we share the same last name.


Quang X. Pham: Probably thought as common as “Smith”.


Nam Pham: Yeah, but as you mentioned earlier from a perspective of South Vietnamese, many of us because we basically belonged to a losing side. Therefore, we may have a different take of the war and I just wondered if you also feel that sometimes even though the war was a losing cause, but the cause was worth fighting for.


Quang X. Pham: That’s a great question. I think first of all the death of the United States who fought in Vietnam, having served as United States Marine Corps Officer, I can say that is a myth. The United States pulled out in ’73, South Vietnamese lost. We lost our country, we lost our culture, we had to come to the United States, but the United States is still in existence. When they left after An Loc and a number of operations in ’68, I can’t say that it was defeated in the battlefield. So your question sir, the losing mentality, if you look at what the refugees have done in this country and I would say compared to any other immigrant American group, there are still problems with social issues, economic issues, and mental issues. But there have been a number of Vietnamese whose kids have gone out and done very well in this country and that’s a testament to the generation that fought the war in Vietnam as well a testimonial to the great opportunities of this country. The American Dream is still alive. I don’t like it when people say it is not, but you got to fight for it, you got to work for it. Doesn’t come easily. The losing mentality, my father was very proud to have served the Republic of Vietnam. Once again, when he came over he didn’t blame his friends, he didn’t blame the government. He said, ‘we lost and I paid the price and I am glad I am alive, I moved on’ and I think a lot of people that moved on on the outside with their jobs, I think their inside now that they are, a lot of them are retired now, they have more time to think about what happened in ’75. They ought to be proud of their service as well, they fought. Remember, the Vietnamese soldier didn’t have just a 365 day-tour to countdown. For the Vietnamese Air Force guy, at least I know that the Skyraider guys were suffering very high casualties and as their model jokingly became he flew and he died and that’s what happened to a lot of my friends, my father’s friends. You couldn’t get out of the military once you were trained and you know, some people did, were able to go to different jobs and, you know, kept going, didn’t come back to the States or what the Americans that’s referred to as “the world.” So in summary, I think Vietnamese vets should feel very proud and I think living in Orange County, I see their pride in July 4th parade, the South Vietnamese Armed Forces Day. They are making some makeshift uniforms together and they are showing their pride. I don’t believe it’s a militant type of pride. They took the pride in their service. Win or lose, soldiers answer the call of duty of their government and if the governments made a mistake, at least they can look at the Americans and say, well, you know, I answered the call and that’s all I could do.


Steve Sherman: I went to a meeting in Houston a while back where they were talking about the educational system and they did a survey in Houston to find out what qualities advanced the student, what made the student good, and they covered everything, the economic status, the family background and everything else and they couldn’t find any determinate of high academic excellence except one thing which was probably not politically correct so they probably trashed the report. They said if you are from Vietnamese ancestry, you do really well in the Houston schools.


Quang X. Pham: Well, I’m not a scientist or researcher or a historian, but I can tell you that in August of 1999, I was invited to give a keynote at the Vietnamese Science Association which honored all the valedictorians, Vietnamese-Americans in the Houston area; there were about 12 of them. It was amazing to see 700 people in the community, mainstream Vietnamese, come out and celebrate with kids and they are doing hard work just as any kids and graduate at the top of their class. I believe the trademark of being very resilient is in the Vietnamese all over the world and no matter where you are and that is part of our history, overcoming natural disasters, floods, dominations and occupations, as well as the Diaspora of 1975. A lot of that is to overcompensate what happened in ’75. Certainly in my generation, when I got to school in sixth grade in 1975, there was nothing I could do to get my father out, there was nothing I could do to get my country back. You know, all I could do is do the best I could in school, pursue what I wanted and give back to the country and I believe all of these second and third generation kids are doing the same thing.


R. J. Del Vecchio: Hi, sorry about the delay we are having. It was still…


Quang X. Pham: Real quick statistics after is when I publish it before, this is in no way a disrespect to the American veterans, but you know the number, I know the people like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund can count very well. The American causality number is 58,235, not counting the people who have passed away from Agent Orange or different causes since ’75, but that the count approximately for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam is around 300,000. So when you go back and look at the image of corrupt, inept and unwilling to fight, I know of no Vietnamese Generals, Officers, Enlisted Men [inaudible], I know from ex-generals that I speak, they worked very hard when they got here in ’75 like everybody else. The inept part, we trained, the United States trained, many Vietnamese officers. My father got here in ’57. There was a lot of training that came from the advisors and from US schools from Ft. Bragg to Lackland Air Force Base to Hulbert Air Field. About the willingness to fight, there’s way you can tell me or the next generation of those 300,000 brave men just laid down their arms. They were still fighting.


R. J. Del Vecchio: Hi. I just, I think I’m the lone old Marine left in the group tonight except for the speaker.


Quang X. Pham: Well, you know I am pushing 40, so I can tell the young Iraq veterans that I am a, you know, from the old Corps.


R. J. Del Vecchio: Anyhow, I just wanted to say, no question. I just wanted to say congratulations. You know, I love the fact that you got here, you survived, and you joined the Marines and you served this country and with all the tragedy of the whole South Vietnam situation, the one positive thing I look at is that this country has benefited and will continue to benefit, I believe, enormously from people like you. Thank you.


Quang X. Pham: Well, I appreciate that. That means I’ve asked many historians and Vietnam experts that, well, tell me something about it. If we wanted, could we have won in ’75, whatever that looked like, and two, if it didn’t end in ’75 what did that mean for us? My generation would have had to fight the war and you basically gave me the thing that you did just now, sir, you said, you know what? The best thing that happened is we got people from South Vietnam that wanted freedom, wanted to work hard and you accepted them into this country. There is no perfect story for everybody and it wasn’t easy, but it was easier here than anywhere else to come up I can tell you that.


Steve Sherman: I think I can speak for the other veterans here and certainly for myself that I am proud to have you as a fellow veteran.


Max Friedman: Steve, can I ask him a question?


Steve Sherman: Yes.


Max Friedman: I would like to congratulate you in honoring your father. I think it is great. Well, did you enjoy writing the book, because I have something to follow up on this?


Quang X. Pham: You know, the book, by which time he got here, my father was released from reeducation in October ’87. He didn’t get to come to the States until May of ’92 when we had waited all our lives in the United States for 17 years and I was headed back to the Far East and the first Gulf in May ’92 as part of a Marine expeditionary group, got on a ship and sailed over the Gulf again. When he came though and he was coming and I was going, so that is the point that was lost because I did not want not to make it back to see my father. It was a tough journey writing the book because he was down again and when he was alive, he started writing. He wasn’t ready to talk yet. Once again, he wanted to move forward and two, what you’ll learn from my book in the Spring is that the Communism that they read out to these people, told him it was going to be 30 days and that unlike the United States where you have electronic records or the Marine Corps SRB, you know Service Record Book. After ’75 if you had to extract information of a captured Vietnamese and they basically had to confess over and over again, so when I ask the old American question, ‘what did you did do in the war daddy,’ you know, he froze, because that’s what they asked him. For whole first five years he was in reeducation, hard labor. It was a catharsis for me to hear the things about my father from ex-Vietnam pilots, the Danang officers, the people he flew with, especially the enlisted men that he flew with because my father had been an enlisted man before he went to flying school. So it was a special time and I’ve been able to, like he had, to let go of a lot of the emotions, a lot of hang-ups and just grateful that I was able to at least get to know my father for eight years. You know, thousands of Americans who lost their father in Vietnam when they were very young, in 60s or early 70s.


Max Friedman: My follow-up is this. You were in the Persian Gulf War. My son’s unit in Iraq, Operations Iraqi Freedom, had Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thai or Laotians in there and so far nobody is telling their story and I’d like you to keep something in mind. If your book is a success and you think that you would like to continue on with the story of the Vietnamese contribution to American world freedom, go out and find these people from Southeast Asia, the sons and daughters of those who served in their country and came here and served in a new country because it is a beautiful, beautiful story to be told.


Quang X. Pham: I believe that duty and honor and country transcends generation and definitely transcends South Vietnam and United States. I can tell you that we almost went to Paris, France, just because we had family, we had more family in France than we did in United States; we only had one uncle here. Had I gone to France, I probably would have joined the Foreign Legion. I wanted to join the military. You are absolutely right, the Vietnamese had been the focus because of the involvement of the United States in Vietnam. The other countries in Southeast Asia, Cambodia, Laos, and the Vietnamese minorities, the Nungs, the Montagnards, they have been way overlooked. It’s part of this tragedy and I do think the book, you can go and blame the American press, you can blame the American mainstream by not telling their stories or our story, and you know what, the American press wrote what they saw, for the American audience. So it is our job, the second, third generations here, who grew up here, who are fluent in English to write their stories to resolve that. Instead of blaming, I just say that was an oral history, get out a tape recorder, take some notes. One day, it will come together. It took me 6 to 9 years to wrap this up. Many rejections, many points, where I put the book down for a couple of years but it will get down, if you get started on it and the main point I would tell people is your parents, your family, they’re not getting younger. Once they’re gone, that part of history can’t be retrieved.


Max Friedman: Good luck.


Steve Sherman: I am probably feel the same about you about the role of the press, but we will leave that for another discussion. Thank you for calling us today, being with us tonight and thank you for the ….. and I look forward to getting your book when it comes out.


Quang X. Pham: Definitely. I will make a trip to Boston and New York so look on www.A_Passage_to_Peace.com  [ www.qxpham.com ] and if there are any follow-up questions, you can send me an e-mail there and I can answer to the best of my ability and thank you again for your time.


Steve Sherman: Thanks for being with us.


Quang X. Pham: Semper Fi.



Bill Laurie: Speaking of the children of Southeast Asians in the Middle East, the first Hmong, Laotian Hmong, was killed in an action in Iraq about three weeks ago.


Steve Sherman: We had hoped to have a few more representatives of various communities here tonight. That didn’t happen. It maybe a function of my failed cellphone here because we were supposed to have a group of Montagnards coming up from North Carolina and I have been incommunicado for this week, but there are many other stories yet to be told. Where we can find them and add them to the websites; we will do so. Pham, you have any…


Nam Pham: Like Stephen said, my last name is Pham, my first name is Nam and I am often say with my friends that I am a Vietnamese by birth, but I truly am an American by conviction. Now, I am trying to call myself a Vietnamese-American and as a Vietnamese-American, I would like to echo what Quang and Bill Laurie had expressed to you. As Vietnamese we thank you for you fighting for our countries. And also as an American I also would like to thank you for fighting for our countries and seriously the reason why I feel very proud to be an American is because I appreciate the values that we all Americans stand for. We stand for fairness, we stand for freedom, we stand for opportunities and Quang’s exemplary success is basically an American story. Neither he nor I or any other Vietnamese could have achieved what we have achieved here had we been able to stay in Vietnam. Having said all that, I just like to share you with some of my thoughts about Vietnam War. I basically grew up with the war. My parents came from North Vietnam. They basically sneaked out one by one, not together but one by one in 1955 because they had experienced Communism firsthand. They knew that had they stayed in North Vietnam, a lot of terrible things would have happened to them and so we moved to the South and we again had to leave South Vietnam because we knew that had we stayed back in Vietnam, I would not have been allowed to finish my education. My father certainly would disappear in one of those infamous camps that we are talking about. Quang mentioned that after 1975 there were more than one million South Vietnamese people, men, women, military officers and non-military people had been sent to those camps and many of them lost their lives in there. As a matter of fact, when during the war one of the fears that we had was that there would be a bloodbath after the Communists took over and we didn’t hear about that much after the war, but actually there was a bloodbath. Aurora Foundation in the early 80s did an analysis officers of stories, life story of people who escaped from Vietnam and they indeed concluded that within the first year of the Communists taking over the South, more than 60,000 documented South Vietnamese were executed during that period. When I was teaching at Tessa University, I often said that there were more people killed in Indochina after the war than during the war. Quang mentioned that 100,000 people died in the camp. We have about 2.3 million South Vietnamese successfully migrated to the US. About one million of them were boat people and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had estimated that for each Vietnamese who succeeded to reach safety, there was at least one perished on the sea. So one million succeeded, there were another million [who] perished in the sea. Cambodia, the killing fields, we all know about that. About two million Cambodians were killed after the war. If you put into thousands of other casualties during the war between Communist Vietnam, Communist Cambodia, Communist China, so there were more people that got killed after the war. I used these statistics just to make a point that I alluded to earlier. As a little boy I grown up with war. My first experience with Americans that I used to remember I was six years old, I was walking along the North route. There was a GMC truck with a few GIs in that. I was walking along with a couple of my buddy friends, and the truck stopped and the GIs gave us candies. I was the poor kid from a little village in a plantation, rubber plantation. So we thought what kind of white people or black people is this? Because the first experience we had with Westerner was with the French and from what we learn in our history was that they were not very kind to the Vietnamese. But here these people who looked like those mean French gave us candies and as I passed later on, especially now having been living in America for the past 20 years we knew that when America came to Vietnam, the soldiers came with very, very good intention. You were a fighting force. You were fighting for what America always stands for. So many of you have been back to Vietnam after the war. When you came back, you were surprised by the fact that, oh, how come Vietnamese were so friendly to Americans considering that we burned them, we killed them, we shoot them, how come they were so kind, and I think that was a puzzle for many Americans. For us, it was no mystery. We understood, especially in the South, we understood the reason why American came to save Vietnam. You came with good intention, you tried to save us from Communism. You were fighting for freedom, for democracy, for what Americans stand for. Therefore, no problem. Also, I left Vietnam -- let me take a step back. During the war, I also learned about the atrocities of the other side. I was growing up in a small village in the plantation and one day I woke up early in the morning. Hearing my neighbors, I called my uncle and my aunty. My aunty was crying, screaming and I ran over, I say what happened. Her husband was assassinated at middle of the night. He was basically 19 years old and his hands were chopped off, his ear was cut off with…..on his chest and his cold body there was a sheet of paper saying that this guy did not listen to revolution, therefore this is revolutionary justice, and he did not want to join the guerilla and therefore he was killed at middle of the night and his body was mutilated. So growing up with that idea, learning about America, I mean American and hearing the story that my parents shared with us about other types of atrocities that North Vietnamese had committed in North Vietnam, again it is North Vietnamese. So we have no choice but left South Vietnam when the war was ended in April of 1975. Quang also alluded to some of the problem that the Vietnamese people had after the war. Anyone who was associated with the American, with South Vietnamese [Government] were either sent to the camp directly for indefinite years into hard labor. Their families, wife and children, were basically exiled from the city. They were sent to what they call New Economic Zones. Their house, their business were confiscated by the government, and even the Chinese could not escape Communism and you know, the Chinese are very practical and China was basically number one friend of Communist Vietnam. But when Vietnam and China had the border skirmish, Vietnamese expelled about 600,000 to 700,000 Chinese-Vietnamese that created another flood of refugees and so that is the basic thing happened to ordinary people and anyone who dared to challenge the Vietnamese government authority since 1975 of course would be crushed by sending to those camps, executed or forced to flee to Cambodia. Three Sundays just past Easter, Quang also mentioned about the Montagnard. Most Montagnard are basically minority people in South Vietnam, they were fighting side by side with the Green Beret, they were trained by the Green Beret. So, of course, they had become enemy number one of the current government. Past Easter, few months ago they peacefully marched in the Central Highland to demand the return of their ancestral land and also the freedom of worship. Most of them have been baptized; they’re basically Christian, and of course they government cursed them, beat them up, kill them. The number of people who were killed ranging from the official count was two and the number that were reported with names from the field inside Vietnam were a few hundred. And just last week the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, opened an office in Cambodia and more than 200 Montagnard coming from the jungle from Cambodia and Thailand to those refugee camps. So Quang also mentioned that during the war, South Vietnamese government whose reputation was corrupted, very dictatorial, very authoritarian, but even with today’s standards, South Vietnamese during the war enjoyed more freedom than any Asian countries. We got freedom of the press, freedom of religion. My father belonged to the Rubber Plantation Union. He was chased by the Communists every night. He was also once in a while arrested by the police. South Vietnamese Union was the most independent trade union in Vietnam ever, even by today’s standards in Asia. Vietnam now, many of you come back and see that basically compared to 20 years ago, 25 years ago might seem to be a little better. There are many reasons for the improvement of their life. We are here. Every year the Vietnamese-American, -French, Vietnamese-French, you name it, send back to Vietnam roughly three to four billion dollars and no question asked, no string attached. So they use the money to improve their life and also the government had to allow some small business to be conducted. Otherwise, people would starve and they would start a revolution. So out of necessity, they had to change the economic policy a little bit, only but in terms of political environment it’s a one party system. As a matter of fact, in the so called Vietnam’s Constitution, there is an Article basically saying that the only party that is allowed to lead Vietnam in any aspect of life is the Communist Party. That’s why it is said that the only party in the US could do anything is basically either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. It’s the only so called Constitution that has such an Article and that Article, Article No. 4, basically copied directly from the old Chinese constitution 30 years ago. Even the Chinese no longer have that. Just one last point I share with you; Vietnam War has ended for many of us, certainly for many of South Vietnamese soldiers, American soldiers and we, most of us, felt that we lost the war, but actually if we continue to fight for what America always stands for, maybe in the near future we won’t lose the war. Vietnam will need US help for a lot of things. They will need your support to get into WTO, they need our support to get further aid from the World Bank, from the IMF. If our governments demand some accountability, I only mentioned accountability not the temporarily put aside democracy inferior than anything. We would just demand that Vietnamese government have to be held accountable for what we give them. We will finally win the war because with accountability the Communists can no longer have the monopoly of everything. They will lose their control, they will lose their power, maybe slowly, but with the US leadership with our pressure, freedom and democracy and opportunity, what we Americans stand for, we will come to Vietnam in the near future and that’s what you have fought for 30 years ago. That was Quang’s father fought for 30 years ago, my father fought for 30 years ago and that’s what many of us now still doing that. Thank you very much.



Steve Sherman: Actually I kind of worry that if the election goes the wrong way they might get that Article 4 in our Constitution, and that’s a dreadful thought. We talked earlier before about the Human Rights Amendment and then you talked about accountability. One of the things, however, that we really have to remember is that when the Soviet stopped giving three billion dollars worth of aid to Vietnam and all of the Communist nations in Eastern Europe fell and the Communist leadership there were set up against the wall, that didn’t happen in China and it didn’t happen in Vietnam. Why that didn’t happen in China is probably because the inertia in the size of China, but why it didn’t happen in Vietnam is because my wife and a few other people were sending that three billion dollars over to them which replaced that Russian money. I am afraid to tell my wife she can’t do that anymore, but if you wanted to stop it that was the place to start. Max?


Max Friedman: Maybe Dolf taught me this. He taught me a hell of a lot of things about Vietnamese culture. The only election I think he said the Vietnamese view Communism as one page of ten thousand pages of their history. I don’t you went to the meeting in 1977. Somehow I got invited to the formation of what they call the Lions for Democracy, the Preservation of Democracy and Culture in Vietnam, which was the Vietnamese exiles, especially based in Washington with American friends. They were going to fight a new war and it wasn’t to be a physical military war. It was to be a cultural thought war. The idea was to preserve Vietnamese culture, customs and thoughts in the United States so they could take those back to Vietnam and they called this the Fourth War. In 1977, they were entering the Fourth War for Vietnamese Freedom. I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t given up. I don’t think anybody in this room has given up that someday Vietnam will be free, so we encourage new friends. You still got friends.


Steve Sherman: Well, one of the problems that we are facing as Vietnam veterans and participants in this conference is getting our message out and we’re facing a pretty well established opponent. I don’t now if I am just paranoid, but a couple of things happening this week aside from the fact that we probably luckily didn’t get a lot of media attention. But during the course of this week, I had spoken to Daniel Ellsberg in the prior weeks and I knew he was coming to Boston. I advised him to come here and join us and I found out only at the beginning of this week that the Joyner Center hastily set up a Vietnam Conference that took place two hours a day on the same Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that we are doing our thing and Daniel Ellsberg was one of the keynote speakers. So I suspect that we were reacted to and I also noted the fact that this movie took place here yesterday, about the same time we were inviting students to come into this side of the room and maybe it is just paranoia on my part, but . . .

Special Forces helped Montagnards to buy some land in North Carolina and we bought a pretty good spread and we collected a fair amount of money. Some of the Americans who were working with them were offered larger sums of money to assist the Montagnards and they discovered where that money was coming from was from the Vietnamese government and it was intended to subvert the operation. Had a larger pool of money to deploy to our country to use in changing public opinion then we had, Special Forces had, to assist our friends in our own country. Meanwhile, the Communists, like the Democrats, were saying you are interfering in the internal affairs of our country. I was talking to the American Montagnards. They are projecting the things that they are doing on to their opponents. In the same way, I see the Democratic Party saying Bush lies and other such charges on their opponents when we know where the stuff is coming from. So it is a difficult thing to fight. I think you are right in trying to preserve the culture is the important thing to do and these are the things we are going to do because we’re the kind of people we are. Let’s not be fooled into thinking that anymore than the émigrés in the Paris cafés from the Russians, we are hoping to go back there and take it over.


Max Friedman: Let me go back to the message from this fellow in Houston.


Steve Sherman: Yes, his name was Houston, I don’t think he was from Houston.


Max Friedman: I think it is Kip Houston. Because it, it ties in with something you just said. First of all, a little paranoia is good for you. It keeps you on your toes. Secondly, if things, strange things, start happening that means your enemies have recognized you as being an effective or potentially effective force which means you keep doing what you are doing because they are going to begin to start hurting and the line I thought was really good. To fight one more battle for us all and that maybe well be the most important battle of all. In theory, that actually should be one of our slogans. Not the call to the final battle, the most important battle and through people like us who were not here but who have taken the time to hook up to your website and give you support. You have already accomplished something way beyond what you had two, three, four weeks ago; what you had, say even yesterday. You have the people here in this conference room committed to doing something concrete. You got a lot of other people, your support people out there. The Internet is your way to the world to reach these other people. One is to get support for your project, which you definitely need because you put up so much to do this, but also these are people who may have something else to offer, stories, money, other contacts. They may be teachers, they may be writers, maybe talk show hosts or they could be on talk shows. So, everytime you get a letter like this that’s another soldier in your force and they want to fight this last battle and they don’t want to lose it, they want to win.


Steve Sherman: When we came home, we came home alone and we spent a long time -- I know I did -- before I really had any other veteran friends. It was not until about 1987 when they had a homecoming for us in Houston that I even knew the Special Forces Association existed. But when I found that I was home, and it was an important step for me and I think it is kind of important thing for all of us to have those connections and those ties brought back to us particularly where they are lacking and I know from what I do within the Special Forces Association in locating lost sheep is a very, very heartwarming thing on both parts, to reach out and find somebody who hasn’t talked to another fellow in 30 years and well, I could even tell him where his best buddy is and if the best buddy didn’t die in Vietnam, that’s even better. So there’s a lots of things we can do. I think at this note, however, I just want to say thank you all for bearing with me this evening and hope to see you tomorrow morning and I want you to invite you to share Jon Cavaiani and mine mutual birthday. There is some cake over here Jon, may I offer it?


Jon Cavaiani: I already had a piece.


Steve Sherman: No, I was offering it on our behalf to others here.


Jon Cavaiani: Oh yeah.


Steve Sherman: All right and to thank our beneficiaries for providing that. So it’s not only me and Jon, but it’s also the birthday of penicillin and the same year too. All the same year.


Participant: Not coincidental either.


Steve Sherman: Not coincidental. They knew we would need it sooner or later.


Logan Fitch: I am going to depart from the program and this is something I had hoped and expected to do in the morning, but I know a lot of people are taking off and I promise I will be brief and I really will. This has nothing, but has something to do with this meeting, but it is a personal plea from me to you and what I want to ask you to do, well let me tell you that. One of the things Steve asked me to do in the conference is sort of be the liaison to the press, although we haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of press, but I did that and I went on radio talk shows over the last couple of days and with some other folks and what I have found is that we don’t have a whole lot of media access and the access that we do have is primarily thinking along the same lines that we are, therefore sort of preaching to the choir you might say. What I want to ask you, everyone to do is make an effort to fight that last battle and when I am talking, I don’t know what this gentleman is talking about, but I don’t know what I am talking about when I am talking about the last battle. I am talking about this Presidential election, which I believe has such profound implications for our country and for the world. I mean, it sounds dramatic and it is, but I honestly personally believe that. We have stature. We are veterans and lo and behold it is sort of popular to be a veteran again. We are pretty well educated, some of us are very well educated. We’re successful and we can make a difference. How can we do that? Any number of ways. Speak to the Rotary Club, write a letter to the editor of the newspaper, call into a talk show, if you have powerful and influential friends beyond yourself ask them if you can get a forum. Again, I have no basis or no official standing to ask you to do this, but I just wanted to express my feelings and how important I believe it is and ask for your help and your support to get out there and make a difference because I honestly believe that if John Kerry wins this election, he will have validated everything he said back in the 70s and we will have lost that last battle. Thank you for your time.

Jon Cavaiani: I’d just like to say I am also leaving in the morning and I want to thank you guys for everything that you guys are doing. I have been remiss in the past other than the fact that I go out to speak to colleges and universities about Vietnam. But other than that I’ve been remiss in getting involved. I can do that as Jon Cavaiani. I can’t do that as a recipient of the Medal of Honor. That can be mentioned, yes, I have it, but it’s Jon Cavaiani that has to get up and talk and it’s Jon Cavaiani every morning when I look in the ugly mirror. So, I wanna say thank you for what you’ve done and the input that all of you’ve provided as well as if I can be of any help, Jon Cavaiani will help. Just please contact me and if I can do something for you or if there’s something that I can do for the group and for our ultimate hopefully victory at the polls so be it. God bless you and thank you very much.

Steve Sherman: See you back here and early at 8:30 tomorrow morning and ready for the next half day of slave labor.