Shared experience of protesters and Vietnam veterans

Wheeler. SR #12.
Marker please.
Sound 34.
Uh, Jack. What is the unfinished business in the Vietnam war?
The unfinished of the business...the unfinished business of the Vietnam War is to confront our remembrance of the war in a way that helps us understand how the events of the war years shape us now. I think the events of the Vietnam War years will have more effect in the next twenty years on American life than they did in the last twenty years.
Would you enlarge on that idea a little bit? Why would that be true?
The main reason that the war had such a major effect on us and will have effect in the future is that the largest single generation in American history came of age during the war years. And they were profoundly affected by the events of the war years. You have to remember that those events are interconnected. There was the Vietnam War. There was also the war protest.
In addition, there was the civil rights movement which was reaching a crescendo before the war but which continued during the 60’s and then the environmental movement and, the, the women’s movement. They were interconnected, but a principal catalyst and source of fuel for all of that was the fact that the Vietnam War was going on.
Uh, what kind of...what kind of dialogue can you imagine could occur between veterans like yourself on the one hand and anti-war activists on the other?
I think, uh, a dialogue between uh the anti-war people, the men and the women who protested war in the 60’s and the Vietnam veterans is very likely to happen. One reason is they have so much in common. The people who were just becoming fifteen, sixteen, seventeen years of age during the period '60, '61, '62 were...that is our generation, the Vietnam generation, were very idealistic.
Uh, and when Kennedy said ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country, that’s something men and women all across my generation believed in. and so, there’s a fundamental idealism in common and I don’t think that idealism has been lost. I think it has become matured by the experience that our generation has gone through.
So, fundamentally there’s much in common. So the dialogue would be one that gets a lot of underbrush out of the way and makes it possible for people to find out what they have in common. And perhaps the perfect example is, is k...a conversation that I had with a friend who was in Colombia One, Peace Corps mission to Columbia first tour.
He gave up a lot in an idealistic way because he was a believer uh, to spend, uh, two tours and then become an administrator in the Peace Corps. Uh, in some ways similar to the, the way I uh and others went into the Army.

Agency of print media in relation to the wounds of war

Um, I’m going to just mention some words that are very frequently raised in connection with one aspect or another of the Vietnam experience and just ask you to comment on them and I think perhaps the most common word, maybe the most important word is anger.
I think anger...
Excuse me, could you put your hand down please.
Oops, I’m sorry John.
I think anger is the story of, of America’s response to Vietnam. Intense anger and the question is why so much anger. Now the size of the anger where the vigorously and quickly growing anti-war protest, uh, uh especially after 1965, the size of the crowds and such things as raising the Viet Cong flag. Whatever raising the Viet Cong flag meant, it surely meant these people were angry. Whether a lot of them know all the reasons they felt angry, is an open question, something we need to look at but anger was surely America’s Vietnam story.
If we could get back in touch with some of that anger now, rather than, than spending rather more of our time as a culture denying that there was a war going on. Just like we denied that the Vietnam veteran was back among us. Uh, that might be healthy.
It might even better, be better to see a little bit more anger. Anger will probably characterize a good part, an early part of the dialogue that’s necessary, especially among the Vietnam generation.
Is anything happening to make that dialogue occur?
Absolutely. Uh, a number of books have been written and...see, unfortunately in this country we haven’t dele... uh developed mental telepathy so we’ve got to use words and uh, one of the important vehicles for words is books and op ed pieces in newspapers.
Slowly, a uh, a dialogue is developing. The first step is already evident, some terrific books...
I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask you to go back.
Can we stop for a minute?
Vietnam. John (Jack) Wheeler. SR #13. Tape , Side 1.
Uh, this is the head of sound roll number 13, goes with the head of camera roll number 21 for WGBH, Vietnam, Viet 13, “Legacies,” uh, continuing with the interview with uh, John Wheeler.
Turning, marker. Clap stick. Slate 35.
Jack, you were saying, you were beginning to describe how the dialogue is starting to take place.
The dialogue is, you know, uh, um, the dialogue among the Vietnamese generation is already growing. The first step is to remember what did happen a long time ago in a place far away. That was Vietnam, and the war zone.
A, a good, typical book that shows that that has begun, that part of the dialogue has begun, uh, is Phil Caputo’s book, A Rumor of War, which is autobiographical; there are other books like that. The, the next step, how what happened long ago affected in Vietnam, affects, or affected what happened in our country long ago, and there is some literature that begins to look at that. Of course, there are books about the war protest.
But they, they’re, but those aren’t retrospective in terms of seeking healing or a dialogue, they’re rather just statements, but the books are imp, important. There have been a lot of books that, that talk about the war protest. The, the next step is how what happened long ago affects us now, to begin to look to the future.
One book that does that is the book, The Wounded Generation. So far, it’s the, the only book, it’s an anthology, that begins to take the step of saying this is what happened long ago in the generation, how does it affect us now? It in, it includes a dialogue, and actual reproduced symposium among, uh, war protesters and Vietnam veterans, and it includes significant contributions from blacks, and, uh, I, I think it a very thoughtful piece by Susan Jacoby about how women were probably affected by the war.
Now, there’s a need for about eighty-five books; uh, all that have gotta be written in the next seven or eight years, that, that, that tells us more about how America is shaped in the present by the events of the, of the ‘60’s, and then begins to take the next…
Then there’s a need for the next most important step in the dialogue, which is to think about how it does shape our future, and there is an urgent need for, for, uh, some books that begin to say, These are the likely effects of the war years on America’s future, because the war years affected the Vietnam generation, which is sixty million people, the largest single cohort u, unified cohort in, in world history. All born at one time, with much in common.
How the affects of the war years will af--, will shape America, and that, that, that need, one way of looking at that need is to think about our children, the children of the generation, our children who, uh, enter kindergarten in September of 1983, are going to be the college class of 2000.
If, uh, denial and avoidance of the subject of the war, particularly wartime service, goes on, you can be sure that our children will pick up those clues, and that it would be better that we talk these things out among ourselves and be conscious about how we’re affecting our children, just as an example, than if we’re not.
The hope, the purpose of this dialogue, uh, is a modest one. It’s, it’s, it’s not that there be some artificial reconciliation, some artificial forgive and forget. It’s rather that by understanding where we’ve been, by understanding how our past shapes us, we can govern how our past shapes us.

Military training and the veteran's dilemma

Well now you, you went to West Point.
I entered West Point in July of 1962. I started “Beast Barracks,” which took most of the summer and then, uh, spent the next for years, I graduated in 1966.
My class at West Point, uh, had casualties as heavy as any of the other ‘60s classes. The war fell across the middle 1960s classes of West Point very heavily, just like it did across the back of my dad’s class at West Point, January, 1943, and also the class of ’44, the class of ’42, and the same as the class of ’50 and ’51, uh, at uh, during the middle of the Korean War.
So you have this, you have a military tradition; you went to West Point, and you went to Vietnam and you lost friends there, and yet you’re not angry at the anti-war protesters?
I am angry at some of the things that the anti-war protesters did, and also, I, I know that I have been very angry at them and that I first spent a lot of time not even knowing I was angry at them. When you got off the airplane at Travis Air Force Base in 1970, which I did, uh, it was, that’s when the culture shock began. West Point prepared me, and the Army and Marines prepared everybody very well to go into combat; that’s their job. We were not very well prepared to come home. When we came home, we found out there was a taboo; the taboo is, you don’t talk about having been in combat service or in Vietnam, and, we won’t ask you about it. It was a comfortable contract.
The trouble is, it, it made it very hard for us, particularly the Vietnam veterans to bring up to the surface things that just, as everyone knows, just from simple, common sense, have got to be talked about. So, for ten years, uh, uh, I, I was angry at, at anti-war protesters and didn’t realize it.
Uh, I think about two or three years ago, I was a lot angrier, openly, than I am now. Now, what is the truth is that I am angry at some of the things they did. But here’s what’s important. I, I think that there is still a lot of other anger like acid, running around the generation, that, that hasn’t, uh, been, uh, been, been openly confronted.
Some of it, I think, runs among the anti-war protesters, and I think some of it is, it is being directed at people right at themselves, and this is all common sense, and I think common sense also says that America is at the point where we can begin to look at this.
A very important thing, uh, with respect to the dialogue, and with respect to the anger, is that the first, major statements that have been made about the need to, look at our national remembrance of the war, have been made by Vietnam veterans.
The people that, that in many ways gave the most, certainly gave as much as anyone else in our country’s history, are, are still giving, and they’re giving by exposing themselves. I go back to Phil Caputo’s book, I, I go back to, uh, guys, uh, who expressed themselves in The Wounded Generation. They, they, they have begun the painful process of, of, of this national dialogue.
In, in many ways, an important thing to remember about that ten years while the contract was in, in effect, the contract or the taboo it said, We wont ask, and you don’t answer, is that it was stripping away part of the personhood of the Vietnam veteran.
Now, there were three million of us who came back alive from Vietnam, in round numbers. A very important cohort within the generation, three million. We’re not all twins of each other. We were three million individuals, but one thing that did happen is that we were, we were told to put on our shelf, somewhere up in our hearts, an important part of our life.
Part of our personhood was being stripped away, and in a way, uh, as a metaphor, it can be said that we were turned into the niggers of the 1970s.
We were made a nigger. You make someone a nigger by taking away part of their personhood, by pretending an important part of them doesn’t exist, or even by pretending they don’t exist. You pretend a soldier, who’s been through a searing experience, doesn’t exist as a former soldier. I mean, he can exist as a banker; he can exist as someone who is not employed, or he can exist as someone in law school, but not as a former soldier. You’re making him a nigger.

Dynamics between feminism and the war

Uh, the...some...what are the events that, two events that seem to be connected out of the ‘60s; uh, the anti-war protest movement and the successful rise of the new kind of feminism in this country. Uh, I think you’ve got some thoughts about that that you might want to share.
One of the most important things to remember as, as this dialogue of the first writing, and then teaching, teaching in high schools and teaching in colleges, seminars, as, as this dialogue develops, is to remember that the world was not invented in 1960.
But it is true that the decade of the ‘60s was like the last stage of a, of a space shuttle. It, it put a lot of things into orbit, it took a lot of cargo into orbit, and two things that got carried far into orbit by the, the heated exchange within our country during the ‘60s, uh, was the women’s movement and the uh, the war protest.
Now, ah, as an academic matter, there are people who write, and this appears in the book, The Wounded Generation, that the, there was first the civil rights movement and that trained, if you will, a cadre of people who were activists, and that included men who ran the show and women, you know, uh, hey, Ida, uh, will you go get us some coffee while we plan this here march?, uh.
Then, the war protest, which included the same cadre, for example, some of the same people in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement were, uh, civil rights activists. Well, some of the women in that group began to get hip, and this, this appears in the, in the literature, and they, they saw that, that actually, lately they’d been treated like niggers, you know, for a little while they were the new nigger, and uh, the, uh, wha--, what you can say is, is that, that to some extent, there was some teaching going on that was important. The women’s movement, with roots that go back through and beyond the 19th century in America, uh, uh, th--, uh, me--, met up with, with some learnings that were right at just at that time.
Uh, ...concerning...
Turning, marker. Clap stick. Sound 36.
One of the most important aspects that gives a clue to the importance of the relationship between man and woman and, and the way that that was changed during the Vietnam War, and the way that the protest of the, of the war affected the women’s movement is to look at America during the 1960s.
Men became flower children. They were wearing shoulder length hair, which, in our culture during that period of time was, was rather a, a, a feminine trait, and what was happening was that, uh, America, like a large aircraft carrier in the ocean, wuh--, was shifting two or three degrees in course, it, towards the feminine pole, a femini--, a femininization of our culture.
The, the uh, the other, other signs were there. Uh, for example, we started talking about sharing ideas, and sharing leadership. There was no more leadership. There was, uh, there was a sharing and a cooperation among uh, among war protesters, for example.
People avoided being put in positions of authority. I, I argued that, that these are, are signs of, of shifting toward the feminine, not, and I’m not saying that’s bad, but it means some things. First of all, it means that some serious research and, and writing needs to be done to explore this possibility. Another thing it means is that, is that it was therefore shift away from the masculine.
Part of that shift away from the masculine would be understandable if the war was seen as masculine. Soldiers are masculine, the war is masculine, it’s bad. We are going to shift away from it, pull back away from it. I think that helped the women’s movement. It, it, it gave some more energy to, to getting women into orbit.
More women in law schools, more women in banks. There is a connection there. It isn’t all one cause and one effect, and the world wasn’t invented in 1960, but the, the link is there.
And this, part of it is good news. It’s good news because I think women, in, the, in our generation are gonna help save our country if the country’s gonna be saved past the year 2000. Very able women. Uh, in my agency at the Securities and Exchange Commission, a great many, over a third of, of, of the principal managers are women, very able people, and it’s, it’s, it’s a pleasure to work with them.
So that’s a hopeful sign. A, a sign of something that needs to be worked on is that by being rather tilted toward the feminine side, I think we’re rather tilted toward the, toward t he idea that life, uh, is full of things that are worth living for. If the ‘60s stand for anything, they stand in part for the proposition that, that, sure, there are many things worth living for.
It’s not complete coincidence that the environmental movement took off in 1970, Earth Day of 1970, but we’re forgetting a principal that is, is probably, at least in our culture, rather a masculine principal, that there are also things worth dying for.

Redemption and culture in the legacy of the Vietnam War

You, uh, seem to be, on balance, optimistic and you have used in some of your writing the term “redemptive,” that there was something, or could be something in the exper--, in the Vietnam experience and in that war that is redemptive. Would you, can you address that and explain what redemptive means?
Well, it’s, it’s common sense, uh, in many ways. Most people have, have experienced a real setback in life or some event where expectations they had have been dashed. Uh, a, a common occurrence is the birth of a child who, who needs a lot of help in order to grow up normally, oftentimes a birth defect calls that, causes that.
Well, you grieve over that process, but it’s true in life that many times, looking back through a hard time, you find things that make, have made you stronger for having been over the journey. That does not mean that if you had it to do all over again you’d take the journey.
But yet, you know you’re a stronger person for having had the journey. Now there are some very hopeful signs that, that ap--, that appear to me to have roots in the events of the ‘60s, that, that are redemptive in that sense. One of them is, the str--, the great strength of women in our country, especially among the Vietnam generation.
I think it has some roots that in some important way were fed by the attitude during the ‘60s of “all bets are off”. That’s a redemptive sign. There’s another one. Uh, it is that the guys who were, who were the niggers of the 1970s have had some training in, in how it is to hurt. Their, their compassion, their capacity for compassion has been deepened.
I think, and some example of that, if they’ll forgive me, are, are guys like Chuck Robb, uh, the governor of Virginia, or Bob Kerrey, the governor of Nebraska, John Kerry, Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, men like that. Uh, I think we’ll see more guys who served in Vietnam who, by dint of hard work and in part, the authority and, and respect which they’ve earned, and their sense of responsibility, uh, for their country, emerging as leaders; that’s a redemptive sign.
The hope in all of this is that our country will, in the end, be more united, stronger, uh, during the, uh, ‘80s and the ‘90s and past the year 2000 than it would have been, maybe even if, if there had been, been no Vietnam War at all.
But, you know, that’s hope. You don’t realize a hope without some work. Now, I, I have, I have to confess, you know, I work for the SEC, and so there’s full disclosure. The disclosure is, I believe the Nicean Creed; I say it on Sundays when I go to church. I believe in redemption in the sense that everything we see in space and in time, including the death of our friends, is not the last word.
And so, I’m looking for signs, like most Christians do, or even many people who, who believe solely in the Old Testament, uh, Jews, I’m looking for signs of God’s action in the world. Now, it’s important to realize that there are a lot of people who, who don’t have the faith that, that says “I’m looking for those signs.”
But those people can still examine the signs and ask the question, What does that mean if I see people becoming stronger? If, if I see something shaping people and making them work together better, maybe there’s a reason for that, that it’s not just locked in space and time. So I think all Americans both want to be and will be open to the spiritual aspects of, of this process.
You may already have, have said this in one way or another, but I will, I will put it to you in this form. What, what is, or if it isn’t already, what do you think will be the chief legacy or legacies of the Vietnam War?
The, the chief legacy of the Vietnam War is an open question and it’s in our country’s hands right now. And it is primarily in the hands of the men and women who came of age during the Vietnam War years. It’s an open question. We can shape that legacy by, by carrying on the dialogue that I’ve talked about.
It, it cries out for books; it cries out for teaching; it cries out for seminars in universities and high schools all around the country. You know, fifteen or twenty years ago, the book being read on every college campus in a seminar was Soul On Ice, written by a nigger from the 1960s. Well now there are books being written by the niggers of the 1970s, the, the Vietnam veterans, and they’re, they’re just not talkin’ about themselves, and they’re being joined by, by all of us.
So, in shaping the legacy, the answer to your question, the, the, the first step is for all of us to realize we went through it together, men and women, especially people in the Vietnam generation. The hope, the, the hope for what the legacy will be that I have is, is that our country will be stronger and more united after a serious dialogue over six or seven years than if there had been no war at all.
And there is some basis for thinking that’s true. Martin Buber was a theologian; he was also a heck of a philosopher and he said that war has an enemy, and that enemy is dialogue, true, open, honest dialogue, not artificial forgive-and-forget, but a real exchange. Over time; this is a process that will take six or seven years, and the 85 books that are needed won’t all be written, but maybe nine or ten will.
Turning. One.
Clap stick. Sound 37.
Go ahead.
It’s true that, that the women in our lives have been in, in many cases, an important redemptive or healing aspect of, uh, of, of our lives after coming back from Vietnam. Uh, in the book, The Wounded Generation, that’s referred to several times. Bobby Muller said that the woman he met and married, uh, made a major change in his life. Dean Phillips has said that; Phil Caputo said that in the book.
In my own experience, uh, the woman I met, Lisa, uh, uh, created an environment in which, after three or four years of marriage, I, I could begin to say my memories of the war years and the friends who were killed hurt me, and I need to talk about it.
And I think one of the most graceful things that happened is, is, uh, she became a, an, an Episcopal priest, and, uh, I, it, uh, a completely, that’s a sign of uh, of her capacity to heal. It made a heck of a lot of difference to me. I had spent a year in seminary and I still wasn’t clear why I was there. I think the reason is that I’ve learned not to be afraid of priests so that when I met a woman who was, who, in, in some later years, ah, as she did, be--, became a priest, it was fine.
Out. Okay.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorials

Okay, this is the head of uh, sound roll 14, goes with head of camera roll number 23, WGBH Vietnam, Viet 13, “Legacies,” and continuing with the interview with, uh, John Wheeler.
Turning, marker. Clap stick. Sound 38.
So, looking back ah, what I see now is that the reason, the surprising reason I, I went to seminary was so it, so that I’d learn not to be afraid of priests. Later I had met Lisa and we were married and she said, “Now I’m gonna become a priest,” and I said, “Fine.”
Jack, let’s go, let’s go on to uh, a brief description of how you got involved in the creation of the memorial and why.
In talking with Lisa while I was in law school, I, I began to sense the, my own pain from my wartime experiences. That led to organizing the ten West Point classes of the 1960s to build the Southeast Asia Memorial which is now completed and uh, I, and built at West Point.
What, what we learned from that experience was that the important thing, if you’re gonna build a Vietnam memorial in the, in the 1980s, is it has to be a landscaped solution, not a big, huge white marble structure. When I met Jan, and he had $144.50 uh, contributed to his two or three month old organization, uh, I offered all the help I had, which included people I knew who’s helped on the Southeast Asia Memorial Project and other lawyers, uh, and Vietnam veteran friends of mine here in Washington.
Very soon after that, we met with uh, Charles Mathias and I, I’ll never forget it. He opens up the big Exxon map of downtown Washington, the one that’s got those beautiful green places where there’s park land, he puts his thumb right there next to the Lincoln Memorial, he said, “That looks like a good place.” Now that was right off the Senate floor, right next to the, the Senate floor in the Capitol, under the Capitol dome, and that’s how the site got picked.
The reason the site made its way through Congress was because we had fixed on the strategy of a landscape solution, and we’d learned that from our exercise in West Point.
And then, finally all of it was achieved and how do you feel about it? What do you think it has done and will do?
My, my personal feeling is, is I feel very, very privileged to have, to have had a role in building the Memorial, and I also feel very grateful. Ah, as far as our country is concerned, the reports that are coming in, uh, the articles that are being written, the speculation by people who think about our country and who have talked to me or Jan Skruggs or to members of our National Advisory Board, it is that the dedication of the Memorial was a watershed.
It has made it possible for this dialogue to accelerate, to really begin to take off. I think it’s a very hopeful sign.
Would you like briefly to, to describe the Vietnam veterans’ leadership program...I’m sorry?
Did you need that again for the voices in the beginning of it?
The beginning, yes.
That’s what I thought.
“I feel very privileged and grateful” was the, were his, uh...
Oh, I didn’t hear that, I’m sorry. Can, can you, do you think you can recapture that? That thought?
Well, my personal feeling is that I’m very -
Once more; I was trying to follow you; you were moving in the chair.
Okay. My, my personal feelings about it, serving as chairman of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Fund, are that I’m very, very grateful, and I also feel privileged to, to have been involved in the project.
As far as our, our country is concerned, the, the Memorial and particularly its dedication, represents a watershed, uh, a beginning of the dialogue that needs to take place in our generation. That’s the news that we’re getting from people who are commentators on the Memorial and, and on the course of events in our country. They tell us that and they’ve written that.

The Vietnam Veterans' Leadership Program

Uh, okay. Um, the Vietnam Veterans’ Leadership Program – what is that?
Uh, I’m a uh, attorney, in the Securities and Exchange Commission, but because of the work that I’d done on first, the Southeast Asia Memorial at West Point and then the National Memorial n the mall, I thought a lot about the future of our country as it, as it relates to what went on in the ‘60s. Because of my thinking, I was asked during the Reagan transition, if I could think of a way to, to create a volunteer program that would help Vietnam veterans. What would make sense?
My idea was to identify successful Vietnam veterans across the country and make it possible for them to work very effectively as volunteers to help bring everybody back from the Vietnam battlefield, especially guys who need a leg up in getting into career jobs.
The president authorized that program personally on July 16, 1981, and I became the national director for the first year of its operations. Then I had to go back to being a lawyer. I had to get my own career back on track, and the program has been a, a large success.
I think one sign of its success is that it’s, it’s being noticed, and, and people are asking, sometimes very vigorously, exactly what are these Vietnam veterans doing who, who aren’t wearing fatigues and who are bankers and lawyers, and, uh, what they’re doing is two things.
They’re defeating the false stereotype of the Vietnam veteran as someone to feel sorry for. And they are moving their communities to do everything possible to get these Vietnam veterans, as many as possible of them, into career potential positions. It’s a long, slow process.
Now, the program will end its federal funded phase on September 30, 1984, but, each of the fifty Vietnam Veteran Leadership Programs, which are now underway, can continue if their local chairman wants to, because each one of them is a separate corporation set up by their chairman.
The lifetime cost of the Program is six million a year, which is roughly the cost of a project director, a central communications person, one each for each of the, uh, fifty cities. six million dollars lifetime total cost is less than the replacement cost of an F-4 Phantom, the airplane that did most of the close air support work in Vietnam. So the Program’s a bargain.

Social divisions resulting from the war

Turning. Mark it.
Clap stick. Sound 39.
Jack describe the separations that you see having been caused by the Vietnam war.
The events of the 1960s, especially the war and the war protest created three kinds of separations along the Vietnam generation. It fractured our generation like the front of a car windshield that’s been hit by a brick.
First, man has been separated from man. Guys who are Vietnam veterans feel estranged from guys who did not wear the uniform for any number of reasons. There are thirty million men who came of age. Three million of us went into Vietnam and came back. Uh. Seven million more wore the uniform. That’s ten million in all. Twenty million did not wear the uniform.
There is a great sense of estrangement. Nobody has articulated that better than Jim Fallows in his commentary in the book, The Wounded Generation and the predicate for that was his terrific piece, “What Did You Do In The Class War, Daddy.” The other separation is man from woman.
I talked to a lot of women, especially professional working business women in our country and they tell me there’s something that makes them feel edgy when they look at their success in many cases that puts them two or four...two or four years ahead of the Vietnam veteran who’s still catching up.
We’ll be catching up in our career ladder for the next...till...through the 1980s. something that makes them feel edgy...talking about these issues. There’s some tension as well as some attraction because women have been a healing force. There’s, that needs to be explored and I think women have got to start helping us by writing about. Then there is a separation of self from self.
I was a Vietnam veteran the minute I got back to Travis and yet for almost ten years I didn’t talk about that experience. I was hiding something away from myself. That’s separation of self from self. I think that a lot of the men who did not go into uniform during the ‘60s feel some separation of self from self and an important clue of that was a terrific piece written by Michael Blumenthal in the New York Times Op Ed page some years ago where he said, “You know I dodged the draft. I pretended my asthma was terrible.”
And then he looked at the men who came back alive and he said, “I’m not so sure they’re not better men...” and that was in italics “...but, I still wouldn’t serve in a war.”
Okay, and the other point was...
...was Caputo and Stockman.
A further example of guys like Michael Blumenthal might be men who quickly affirmed that their wartime experience in their choices are unimportant now. I think all of us in the generation now have got to recog...have give...all of us in the generation have to give up the pretense that our choices made in the ‘60s are unimportant.
Each of us as an individual has to examine that. I sense that there are a lot of men like James Fallows and Christopher Buckley who’s written a piece just as strong as Jim’s about his choices in the ‘60s.
A lot of men like them need to look at their choices so that fifteen or twenty years from now they won’t feel needlessly sheepish when we will need their full strength. Another example of why the… -
That was it
I’m sorry. (Unintelligible)
Did you think that was it?
Go to camera roll 20, 300 hundred feet into camera roll twenty (unintelligible background voices).
Okay, roll ‘em...Ah, hang on, ah, mark it.
(Clapper). Sound forty.
Go ahead.
Having served in Vietnam is a very high voltage thing, especially politically. There was one man who wanted to run for Senate in New York and during the course of his campaign which was very promising one early on, the report got out that he was a Vietnam veteran, it was on his campaign literature.
The problem is that he was not actually not a Vietnam veteran. He did not serve in country and that led immediately to the end of his campaign, it terminated it. Now it’s not as though he said, “You know I’m an Episcopalian” but really he was some other denomination. It shows that he had said something about which there was a very high voltage. It was important and it was positive to be a Vietnam veteran.
This is just a clue that the best brains that our country can find need to look at these issues and think about them.

Agent Orange, illness, and veterans

...That’s a challenger...
This is room tone for the John Wheeler interview. Test.
Turning. Mark it.
(Clapper) Sound forty-one.
Tell me about your experience with Agent Orange and your suspicions about it.
In February, 1977, Lisa had our twins, Katie and John. They’re now six years old. John appears to be fine. Katie had a very unusual birth defect.
It was a trachea that wasn’t fully formed and so she needed almost instantly a tracheostomy to be put in here where she breathes and she’s been maintained on that tracheostomy all six years of her life. It takes about five hundred dollars a week in nursing to keep her alive.
It, her prognosis is a very hopeful one, but it is a very unusual birth defect that she has and I’ve wondered over the last several years whether there might be a dioxin connection and I think there is. I think there’s a possibility of one.
Hold it just a second, do you mind changing over?
Yeah. Uh, yeah, um, ok so we’re going to back up to uh, I’ve been thinking over the past few years or so.
I’ve been thinking over the past several years, watching Katie grow up that there was a possibility that there’s a dioxin connection to her birth defect. My hypothesis is grounded in some of the things I learned at West Point about how you manage a battle field.
Now the main thing that people have focused on so far with respect to Agent Orange may be the wrong half of the question. They are focusing on surface content with dioxin by brushing against it or perhaps having it rub against you when you are delivering it as an Air Force person in a C-130 in Vietnam. That is an important question to examine. The protocol so far have zeroed in on that.
But there is another half, perhaps the most important one. Imagine if you are the officer in charge of clearing a field of fire of those huge fire bases or secure zones in Vietnam like Long Binh or Camp Eagle or in and around Nha Trang or Cam Ranh or Cu Chi, all of which were stripped with vegetation as any Vietnam veteran who flew up in a helicopter over and will tell you.
How did you do your job. Well, you can use Rome plows, those big bulldozers, or you could use diesel fuel and burn or you could dig it out with machetes or I think in a lot of cases there is a possibility that the army officers involved borrowed some dioxin from the Air Force.
Those big barrels and couple of Jeeps and some steaks would go over to, say Bien Hoa and then...or maybe to Long Binh come the juice to spray the stuff or to squirt it out and clear the fields of fire. We need to find out how much that happened. I know it happened some. We need to find out how much it happened. Because if it did the stuff went into the water table.
Then we need to find out if the engineers filtered it out. If they were just filtering for sepsis, for disease, but not for dioxin, then it might have been in the drinking water. The drinking water that went into the lister bags that the helicopters flew out to the troops in the boonies as well as what was being drunk in each of the major base areas.
The MASH subculture was drinking the stuff and the battlefield subculture was drinking the stuff as a possibility.
The protocol at the centers for disease control where Agent Orange investigation has been going on now has to include all possibilities. It therefore has to include inquiry into the possibility of this hypothesis.
Do you think it will? [Inaudible]…
I think the centers for disease control will include it in the hypothesis because they are the same people among other medical centers who are focusing on the question of what happened at Love Canal or Times Beach which is where dioxin or problems similar to dioxin have confronted our domestic culture.
The important thing is to integrate our knowledge about what happened in the United States as say at Times Beach with what we believe or know happened in Vietnam and then do careful research to find out. But there’s a possibility is right, if this hypothesis is right, at least as to a lot of Vietnam veterans that a lot of us will die much younger than the other members of us in the generation.
That’s something that I don’t feel angry about. I think one of the things a Vietnam veteran got ready for was to die. But I would like to have it sorted out because I’m interested in Katie and claims that she may need to make when she’s much older.
Cut. That’s fine. Thank you.
Do you have...