tv History Bookshelf CSPAN May 23, 2015 4:00pm-4:55pm EDT
ale, which was satisfactory, a little better. and in today's world, they use something called the mm scale, the momentary magnitude scale, which more accurately measures earthquakes, particularly above the 8.0 level. these are important distinctions because earthquakes are important to all of our futures and the more we understand them them the better we'll -- thanks. the more we understand the better we'll all be. i think -- i think that maybe -- yeah, that will be fine, thank you very much. on that morning when the earth shook, it shook for about 45 seconds. and in that 45 seconds, it caused terrific amount of damage. it broke the water pipes all over san francisco, first of all the earthquake had a ruin in the
immediate vicinity of san francisco, but up and down the coast for about two miles. it also severed most of the gas pipes in the city. it knocked over every candle and every morning fire. it displaced all the fluids so the heat had no place to go but in the ceiling. so it created in the first few minutes after the fire, at 52 recorded fires in the city of san francisco. and the san francisco firefighters did an extraordinary job in containing these 52 fires in the very beginning of the day. now san francisco, in this great stroferey experienced two pieces of very bad luck. the first piece was that general agreely, in charge of the pacific division of the army
had gone to chicago to a wedding of his daughter, so consequently because he was out of the city the next military person in charge was general funstine. general funstine was a brigadier and a man who had created for himself a very noteable reputation in the philippine war. he had won the metal of honor. a very distinguished military man. that morning in san francisco, he was, he arose like everybody else to the shaking, and went out to the streets to see what was wrong. and he immediately realized, i guess, the general was not in town and it was his responsibility.
he in fact took over the management for, you know everybody agrees that everyone aagreed to his management prerogative. the other piece of bad news, bad luck was the chief of the fire department, dennis sullivan, was rendered unconscious in the first 90 seconds of the earthquake. and, he had been at a third alarm fire earlier on that evening, and he had just got an few hours rest when this earthquake occurred. he was living in the top floor of oo fire house on bush street. and the california hotel next to it had a sort of a steeple that in the earthquake fell over and went down through the roof of the fire house, through the fourth, third, second and first
floor of the fire house. well, dennis sullivan's wife tucked safely in her bed, fell with the steeple down into the basement of the fire house. the bed miraculously landed on all four beds. mrs. sullivan was then covered with debris but still tuck into her bed. although cut and bruised, she was relatively unhurt. and, relative certain to a husband, who had come into her room looking for her in the first seconds, did not see the hole in the floor, and fell into it. and he was -- he was not as lucky. he fell down four stories and landed next to the boiler. now, on the boiler of the fire house, the shaking had displaced several of the pipes and it was shooting steam. and that steam severely burned dennis sullivan, rendered him unconscious, although he did almost miraculously arise from the ashes of the plaster, and walk into the firefighter rescue team.
they were quite amazed by his presence and then he collapsed. and he never regained consciousness and died four days later. now, why is this bad lubbling? it's bad luck buzz a fire chief in san francisco had in an emergency. it was his baby. he had full control, and that was certified by law in an earlier case when the mayor had an administration, in which he sued the fire chief buzz the fire chief had thrown him off the fire ground of a fire one day when gearry thought he could run it better than this fire chief could. and the mayor lost and the courts resolve that the fire chief had complete control at the scene of an emergency.
so dennis sullivan was not involved. there were two fire chiefs who were next in line. bo of them have a little bit of a conflict because daurtry had already put his retimet in, and he realized that if he retired at a chief salary, he would have a very increased pension. so he wanted to do everything that he could to sympathy the nidse and agree with the demands of the mayor. so he was not willing to take full control. the other chief, a very young chief and he wanted the top job because he had a long career in front of him. so he didn't want to assert himself as being in full control. the mayor finally appointed dauthry at acting chief, had no legal responsibility. and the mayor took incident demapped. but the mayor was under the influence of general funstine,
without a doubt. there is much evidence to assert this. and, the reason why dennis sullivan's loss was so vital to the city, is because all reading about him has shown me that he was quite an intelligent man. he was an engineer. he was specifically a high drolick engineer. he understood water systems. he came from boston, well educated. youngest chief in the history of the san francisco fire department. he certainly would have known of the great baltimore fire four years preevetly in 1902 in the city of baltimore, in which dynamite was used at great costs to the city, because it was tremendously unsuccessful use of dynamite.
and sullivan would have known that. he would not have permitted the sort of wanton use of dynamite that occurred in 1906. so, that is the first piece of bad luck. the second was funstine. now, he was a great military man, and as i say, it's not easy for me to inindict a man who served our country so well. and, but -- but i do think it's safe to say that it is mostly under funstine's direction that the whole fire of 1906 was mismanaged. where was it mismanaged? well, first of all. these 52 fires i mention to you, were fought by the san francisco firefighters. they did a great job, they
contained just about all of them, except for one fire, which we refer to a chinese laundry fire, in which there were great men with irons ironing sheets and pillow cases of the hotels. those fires that we used to heat the irons were all displaced in the shaking and created an extraordinary fire. and when they found, when the fire house responded, that they had no water. and one of the iron ick side bars to this story is that just a couple of blocks away were two million gallons of wine which were attached to hoses and pumps because in the wine wearhouse they pumped the wine from one vat to another. and, wine was warehoused in the city of san francisco because it was temperature control. the city of san francisco has a very level temperature. it hardly goes up or down and when it goes up it's the most
beautiful place in america and when it goes down it's a little chilly. so, they storted the -- stored the wine in the city and they had the capability of using it as an cooling the fire. they never realized that it was there. so one of the great ironies of the fire. yet, right across the street from the chinese laundry fire was a place where firefighter o'neil died. he was the second fatality of the san francisco fire force after dennis sullivan. so that fire did get out of control because there was no water. now the fires mt meantime in the financial district, and there
were quite a few fires there. and, we're pretty much under control by the firefighters because they had systems there and they also had some water supply coming, so the idea that san francisco was absolutely without water is not true. and they -- they did a really great job in holding the fire in the financial district. and then, at about 10:00 in the morning, there was a fire, the valley fire which they call the ham and eggs fire because a woman got up, and she put the breakfast on, she started the fire in the stove, and she didn't realize that her fluid had been displaced in the shaking. by the way, many people arose to the shaking in san francisco and went back to bad. many, many people. and i do write about one woman who went back to bad not
realizing that the gas lamp had surged in her room and had put out the gas lamp and it got light just as the shaking began so she didn't realize that the gas lamp had gone out and it was just that the light had gone out and the gas was emanating throughout her room and she died because of that. and i'm sure there are many stories like that. so, the haze valley fire got out of control rather quickly because it was absolutely without water in that part of the city. but yet, the firefighters fought diligently, and for the next couple of days. in the mean time, general funstine had come in early in the morning on the wednesday morning of the 18, the first day, and he had a meeting at about 7:00 with the mayor. and, i'm guessing at this point he realized that the city had to be -- it was in a disaster and
it had to be controlled in some way. and i feel that he told the mayor at this point that he better, you know, have some command of the situation. an issue of procklomation that says if there is any looting there will be a shoot to kill. this is illegal, immoral and unethical. yet, there was one issued and it was tacked to the doors. it was a shoot to kill order. because of that, many people in san francisco, all the evidence shows, and the newspapers as well believed, that marshal law had been declared in the city. of course it had not been declared because only the president can declare that. it had only ben declared three times up until 1906. what they did was completely illegal. i think general funstine realized that and in his accounts, he had two differering accounts. both of them suggested that there was such wide-spread
violence and rithing in the city and firefighters were confronted by raging fires without any water, all of which was pretty untrue. and, but yet, funstine let everybody assume that marshal law was in order. because he was a military law, he brought a military sensibility to it. he came into the city thinking that the city needed to be controlled, because his military experience told him that ice what occupying forces do. you control a community or a population. so he brought 17 troops, 1,700 troops with fixed bay yets. i feel very strongly that he
should have brought 1,700 with work gloves. because had dennis sullivan lived, he would have recognized that without water you would have to revert a more traditional way of fighting. so in any situation, particularly downtown, you're only five or six, or seven, or eight blocks from the water, from the bay, and with the amount of men and women who were available in san francisco during those days, they could have easily set up those sort of bucket bri grades that existed. i'll tell you this, because on 9/11, just as a sidebar. on 9/11 when we were searching in the first days and the second and third day, we used bucket brigades. we had hundreds of men lined up putting pieces of steel and debris into the buckets. dennis sullivan certainly would have thought of that. he was a very bright man. again, he was a great leader the firefighters loved him thought he was a great inspired
leader. but, general funstine thought that the city needed to be contained and then evacuated block by block. this was also a great mistake, because in the evacuation policyo opportunity to preverve their homes. soldiers went out and there's much, again, many, many accounts where soldiers at gun point push people out of their stores and businesses, men and women who wanted to stay there and fight the fire, whatever came. on the other side of it, every story that i have found where people sir couple navigated the soldiers, actually preserved them. with their meager amount of water that they had stored, or even in one gays, on the top of telegraph hill, a family they were making wine in the basement
of their and they saturated their house with wine and that preserved their home because the heat was not able to light it up. so, if you look at the photographs, and i had stored, as the fire came up on market street and was going towards the 18 story building, the talest building west of the mississippi. i suppose it's worth saying now that san francisco at that time was the fourth largest city in america. it was the city that was undoubtedly going to be the great metropolis. without a doubt, it was the commerce center west of the mississippi. it was filled with people that were starting businesses left and right, building was going on
all around. all the photographs show that. but, as the fire spread through san francisco, and you see it going up market street and you see the call building and the fire and the smoke going into the building, you also see hubbeds of men standing there watching with their hands in their pockets. now, any leader in an emergency knows that in an emergency you had no second chance really. emergency, first responders know this. when you go to the scene of an emergency you have to make decisions where you don't get a second chance. and your decision will often determine whether you're going to save a life or not. and here they saw this incredible accessability of manpower and they failed to utilize it. i think general funstine thought all you had to do was evacuate the building and create a fire
space so the fire wouldn't jump from building to building. general sullivan would have never done it. in the first hour of the emergency, 700 policemen were unite liesed to go around the city and close every liquor selling establishment, every bar, every liquor store was closed and locked up by the 700 police officers. that is to me, a sinful misappropriation of manpower and again, much manpower that could have been used to fight this fire, building by building, was misused. so, the dynamite situation. as i said, dennis sullivan absolutely would have realized in this time that dynamite did not work in baltimore just a few years previously. it created more problems than it
helped. that morning general funstine called for dynamite to be brought into the city, and there wasn't a lot of dynamite, but i tell you what they had a lot of, a lot of gunpowder and black powder. and these two things are tremendously volatile. so they used instead of dynamite, gunpowder and black powder to take the buildings down. when they made a plan to take every building on the southeast side of the avenue, and as they did that, every building they brought down created more fire ts. and so again, as i looked at it. i went through this step by step with it with an important fire chief in it, scott peeples. and we looked at how it extended, building to building. i was just absolutely
overwhelmed that this dynamite probably athed to a third of the burning in the city. this city burned 28,000 buildings during this four days of fire. now who saved san francisco? up doubtedly the firefighters saved san francisco, without a doubt there is no management to the firefighters in the city. there are a mfment that was created for the firefighters in 1880 in washington square. it's a beautiful statute you of firefighters. i love it. but there is no management to the firefighters in 1906. why? well, it's a part of a bigger picture of people wanting to forget what happened in 1906. they did not want america to understand that this situation in san francisco existed. that it was a dangerous place, that the earthquake had created this terrible devastation cons
equent, in fires. they just didn't want to bring notice to it. so all of the accounts of the time, they mention the fires but they never mention the earthquakes. and they felt that for the country to feel that this was an earthquake prone place that would destroy a city in the way it steroid it in 1906, they wulled not get the eastern bank to refinance the city. they would not get the insurance company to reinsure these buildings that were going up. so there was a rational for suppressing the idea of the strofey in this city. but, you know, now that we're coming up to the 100 year anniversary, perhaps it's time to take a look at what those firefighters did and put a proper management up. in this city there is a general funstine avenue and a statute of him in city hall. as i told you, i thought he was
a great american. he had a great career before san francisco and after san francisco. the only thing is that i'm fully convinced that during san francisco he was a good man who made very bad decisions. so i think there should probably be one named after fred rick freeman in this city as well. now who was fred rick freeman? he was a naval officer attached to the island just north of here. he was on a torpedo destroying boat and he came into the city earlier that morning. in fact i have a photograph that was taken from the bridge of his boat. and when regot here, he realized that the city was burning furiously, and that he had to
try to save the lifeblood of the city. the lifeblood of the city, of course being the peers, because if they weren't saved, it would take this city much longer to come out of this terrible emergency and disaster. and he did. and in the next four days, lieutenant freeman, this great military naval lieutenant, led his men, who were mainly sailors and marines, and they completely stopped the fire at the water front area and they completely stopped the area at the rail road sheds, which was open where lincoln hill used to be. and he did a very, very commendable job. now, in the history of san francisco's heroes, there's a
huge photograph and 400 people in this photograph and general funstine is in the middle of it, and the mayor, and boss roof is in it, but there's no lieutenant freeman who did this extraordinary service in four days. i feel that because the military people of the time realized that in all great situations there's only room for one name. every battle has one person attached to it. for instance, like custer or mcart you are, any of the jenralts in the revolutionary war. here, there is room for only one military person. i think that everyone agreed that that military person should have been general funstine. why? that's what happened. so freeman got completely marginalized. though he did more work than any single individual in the city
except for the firefightering force. at that time, the major, who was a violinnist, he was the head of the mue szishes union, and he was the first union party labor union party to control municipality in america. unfortunately, he was controlled himself by abera ham roof. -- abraham roof. he was a young man who was an prodigy, spoke many languages, but he also, as they said among other corrupt politicians, i saw my opportunities and i took them. well that was sure true of abraham roof because you could not do anything unless you hired him as a consultant.
and abraham roof normally wanted $200,000 and this is all evident in the trials that came out of it. and he and mayor would keep half and the other half they would dive i have among the 19 board of supervisors. so the whole city was corrupt. during this time, there were two people who real le recented this corruption, and one was the guy who had been the mayor of the city. and also he became a senator united states later on. he was a man of great wealth. his father founded the earliest gold reserve bank here in san francisco. and he was a man of great privlege and graduate education. and he was also committed to the city beautiful movement, which
was something that grew out of the white city movement of the world's fair of 1891, i think it was in chicago. and the other person who was very civic minded was a guy named rudolph spreckels. that framly owned the oceanic lines of every ship that went from san francisco to hawaii and to australia belonged to them. they owned the largest building west of the mississippi. they owned the "evening call" newspaper. owned fullly one third of one of the islands in hawaii. one of the biggest sugar producers in america. so spreckles went because he saw the vast corruption around him went to a guy named older who was editor of the evening bull tin here. and older was fairly well-known editor and much respected, and he went to washington. he got an appointment with
president roosevelt. and he met with roosevelt and told him of this extraordinary corruption in the city and had to be:ed up. you couldn't do any business in san francisco that didn't cost you fortunate. and, roosevelt said, ok, let's try to clean it up. i can give you john burns, who is the guy who createded the burns detective agency. he was a g man. he was a great investigator and every serious government investigation during roosevelt's term was led by john burns. he came to san francisco, but it cost a great deal of money. and the pt said it's going to cost a great deal of money to lead this investigation. and he wrote a check for $200,000, which in today's world is about $4 million, and it was
a great act of determination. he was accompanied by james d. fallon, and older and burns, and together they attacked the corruption in the city and created a whole series of corruption trials, which started actually, just two days before the earthquake, and when they found first evidence of corruption in all of the city's barrooms what they called the french restaurants, for lack of a better term which were restaurants of questionable virchu. in order to get a license you had to have abe roof as your lawyer. they had evidence of this, that was two days before the earthquake. the trials came on in the following year, and, everybody was indicted. the whole board of supervisors mayor was indicted, boss roof
was indicted. the mayor went to jail and he served about a year in a holding situation, rather than going to a prison because he was appealing. he finally won on appeal because in the original indictment they failed to mention he was mayor of the city of san francisco which conveyed to him certain legal entimets evidently, so he was let out of prison. boss roof on the other hand, kept in prison for seven years and he did his time and he came out and -- he owned a building right on montgomery street which is today columbus avenue and in the doorway of his building, it said when he came out of prison, abe roof ideas. that was the way he approached it after his prison time. it was a terrible mess. but during the corruption investigations during the time itself, it was iron ick because spreckles belonged to the very
upstabbeding clubs in san francisco. and soon they were being ignored in their own clubs. why? because it makes two to make an act of corruption. and spreckles felt very strongly that the corruptors should be indicted and sent to prison as well as the corrupted. and the corruptors were the people in the clubs who owned the businesses, enterprises in the city. and think felt that although they were a part of the
corruption, they felt that they were really not guilty because you couldn't do business in the city of san francisco, in any way, without being involved in some way with corruption. so they both lost a lot of friends during this period of time. the people they wanted to go to jail never went to jail. not one board of supervisors went to jail the mayor went to jail for a little bit. roof went to jail. but the corruption in the city of san francisco did end because of the determination of these two very civic people. now, the fire finally, it burned for four days, and there are many, many examples of people who sir couple navigated the orders and went into their own homes.
at the end of the -- in the beginning of the fourt day when the fire actually ended on 19th street and mission in that area, they -- they had a huge pumper a very big pumper that they had to get up this incredible hill. there was water there, miraculously and to get this pumper up there, there were no horses. they got -- they rallied over 200 men who were civilians and bystanders to push this pumper up that huge hill. it's just another example of the good citizens of san francisco rallying in defense of their own city. and so, in conclusion, i would like to say that the city of san francisco is one of the most loved cities in the world. i mean its reputation is certainly as big as the
reputation of paris or london or new york or new orleans. it is a city that people love to come to visit, annually or every once in a while. and for the people who live here, they love living here. so what does it mean in today's world? it means that we have to be vigilant, it's that simple. i tried to tell this story from a very personal narrative and i tried to show you how people's lives were affected in a very tragic way, essentially by mismanagement. because good people made bad decisions. we as citizens in this city have to be vigil lant of those in control. we should look closely at them. we should demand in the senate for example, that the senators
and congressmen who have a role in the appointes of our emergency organizations, and there are many of them where the senate has an advising consent role. we should demand that they consider only people who have emergency service experience. and, knowledge. because it takes more than being an sbelljebt person, it takes much more than that. it takes the person who understands the culture of emergency services and understands what it's like to put lives on the line and put the people you work with on the line. and that kind of constant emergency and understand the culture of emergencies is very important, very important
quality that ought to be found in leadership. it often is not. so, we as citizens have the responsibility to look more closely after this because if we don't do it, who will? so, that is the story of the san francisco fire. i'd be pleased and honored to answer any questions, yes, sir? >> the difference in size of the -- [indiscernible] dennis: i read that in p paper yes. >> that we are very powerful and able to maintain size x when everybody is size one, etc., etc. the chronicle did a little survey and found that we fit about every 800 large, which in a senseable budget is moot. what's your -- dennis: you know, in is eans it is peanuts. probably $800,000, if you took that much money out of a school, you would have to close it.
so one way of looking at it is which school do you want to close. i didn't think a question of money so much. a question of adapters. all the firefighter departments around the surrounding area of san francisco should have it. my understanding is that about 100 of them do and fairly inexpensive, less $100. so to me it's not a very important issue. but it's topical and it's one in which the community can look a little closer at the fire department with some questioning because what has gone on in texas and louisiana, mississippi, alabama in the last month. so, we're all a little more conscious and leery of these things. perhaps, convey to them more importance than they actually
have. but that particular problem, i could talk about it at length i must tell you. i know it came out of the the state legislator that mandates to change those valves to two and a half inch and san francisco has three inch. yes, sir? [inaudible] dennis: the question is the actual casualty figure. for many, many years we thought it was 450, about. and they came to that figure because of the bodies that they had reclaimed in the hospitals and the infirmaries. and those that were picked up from the streets. but, gladies hanson took it on her own to investigate all the deaths during that period of
time and try to try o attribute cause to those deaths. and she found that the number is about 3,000. and she feels that the number could go to 4,000 is that there was a great deal of life loss at the time, and i think that the life -- my goodness -- oh i'm so sorry. well, fortunately we're in an emergency conversation, that was very close to an emergency. gladys has the number going up to 4,000. yes? >> there must have been a lot of serious burns. were the hospitals and clinics able to handle emergencies for these people? dennis: the question is about serious burns.
and there were, and as i was going to elon gate the previous answer, we're not certain about how many people died in the earthquake and in collapses, building collapses. we know for instance, that one of the hotels collapsed and that there were 40 people who expired in that collapse and that was in a collapsed billing. on the hill, there was an extraordinary fire, that hill doesn't exist anymore on san francisco. at that time it was quite a steep hill. mostly impoverished people who lived there and the fire came up both sides of it. so we know a sizeable amount of people died there in fires. how many people we're not sure. but probably, you know somewhere between a dozen and a few dozen. the nurses, again, did a great job. there were nurses who came in from all parts of california to work and assist and help. they said the military, the
army, under general funstine did an absolute fabulous job in terms of mitigation after the event. in terms of creating these hospitals and creating food systems and transportation system and dwelling systems. there was much to be proud of in the rebuilding of san francisco. people really chipped in. even, a the man who owned the southern pacific railroad and said anybody in san francisco can use any ship i own, any rail road i known. they can go anywhere they want in the country. and about 200,000 people took advantage of that. they got on these trains and went to ohio, went to texas and went to wherefore they could go. very similar to what happened in new orleans recently. you need to evacuate, and where do you evacuate?
you evacuate essentially toward the place, where robert frost said home is the place where they always have to let you in. in a sense, you go to people you know where they will let you in. your friends and your relatives. that could be anywhere. so he was a great help during this period of time as well. so, yes, sir? [inaudible] dennis: san jose suffered terribly in the fire. in fact in san jose was pretty great. i don't know what it was exactly. there were many fires in oakland but they did not have the water problem. that san francisco had. so they contained those fires pretty easily. the oakland fire department sent three fullly manned companies
and steamers over to san francisco early in the event. they were very helpful. you know, i see references to them. the interesting thing about this is that the records are so poorly preserved 1906, that the committee of 50 to control business leaders -- because they recognized that they needed take over things like getting communications, getting the transportation up, getting electricity back up. all the things they assigned to individual leaders of the city. and among them was a professor from berkeley who was charged with creating the history of the time to gather all of these historic documents and to do a verbal histories. unfortunately all the men worked for over a year on that project. and everything he accomplished
was lost for some reason and hads never been found. there were about 50 companies at the time, and only about a third of their, only about a third of their records are extent. and i read every one of them. but the ones that i really wanted, like engine one and so on i couldn't find. everyone has looked for them and we don't know where they are. maybe someone will see this and send it to the san francisco fire department. these records are the living proof that san francisco, you know consisted of people. mostly men in those days and did a great job. without those records, it sort of dishonors all of that work
that those men did. and i hope that my book sort of re-evaluates all of that. and people will look back at this, these terrible four days with a new vision with a community, that there was no rioting, no pandemonium. there were people very senseable and sound people who came together to help wherefore they could. and that is, i think, history. yes? >> having read your book, you must see parallels between what happened in san francisco and what has recently happened to new orleans with the lack of communication between the people in charge. dennis: well the question is about new orleans and san francisco of a hundred years ago. certainly it is true that there were people who were in charge who seemed to be over their
head. this speaks to the point that i was making before demanding that those people who are leading the bureaus and the departments in our governments that have their responsibility of emergency services come indeed out of the emergency services. and i don't want to disdain or any group of people, but, we pick people to lead these organizations generally because they come out of the political field. they worked on somebody's campaign so they get these big jobs, whether state government federal government. and they shouldn't be there. and the rational is that they're intelligent people. they understand management, they see the needs. again, i don't think it's
enough. the extra order circumstances that occurred in emergency. because that's what will protect you in the future. >> what's your frecks project? dennis: oh, my next -- i don't know. i wish i knew -- my next project i'm sure will be another book and be kinder to my friends, i think. more loving to my children. there are all kinds of nice things i can do, pafe the streets with groodness. >> if there was a statute, firefighters here -- dennis: here in san francisco? oh boy. what a good question. i think that the greatest stand made by the firefighters in this city was on montgomery street, which is now columbus avenue. they completely ex tinge wished the fire. so, i think somewhere in that area, i think somewhere in that area, not to diminish the value
of anything in the city, but i passed the other day a public building with a sculpture on the front of it. this sort of temple building that was built in the 19th century and they had this really ridiculous scum chur in front of it. somebody should be challenged to see to it that the firefighters of 1906 are remembered. well look. i want to thank you all. [applause] thank you so much. >> on history bookshelves, here from the country's best-known
american writers. to watch these programs anytime visit our website. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. monday night, and nbc news special report, communist saigon from may 26, 1975. nbc news reports on the capture of the south vietnam capture. he details of events following the end of the vietnam war. a special report from 1975 on american history tv. >> to mark the 40 anniversary of the end of the vietnam war, new york university hosted a discussion on the lessons of it.
elizabeth holtzman: gives a keynote address. this program is a little over one hour. elizabeth holtzman: i'm on her to be at this conference. i'm honored to be asked to be keynote speaker. i have to say that i don't know of you are aware but chuck hagel was supposed to have this honor and for whatever reason he was unable to fulfill that task. i can't say to myself, why was i selected for this? what dwight i have to do with chuck hagel? i remembered that actually mother jones magazine had a dream cabinet. i was the secretary of defense present is probably why i am here today. [inaudible]
i want to acknowledge and thank and recognize those people in this audience who have strongly opposed the war in vietnam stood up against the injustice and the impropriety of the war. dissent was very hard. all of us are indebted to them for their courage, and for strengthening our democracy. after 50 years when the war intensified in a major way, and after 40 years, won the war ended, it is an important time to take stock, to examine the issues, and think about where this places us for the future. i would like to start by saying some things that reflect my own opinion. i believe the war was wrong.
and it was tragically wrong. the u.s. had no business being there, and no business fighting. vietnam was a small country and opposed no threat whatsoever to the united states of america. the human cost of that war can never be overstated. and possibly we don't even know the full dimensions of it. we know that more than 58,000 americans lost their lives. more than 300,000 americans were wounded. hundreds of thousands of other americans were damaged psychologically or through exposure to chemicals used by the united states. the number of vietnamese who were killed as a result of our actions the number of play oceans cambodians, i don't believe that number has been fully counted. the estimates are in the millions. the economic cost of the war is
stated to be about three quarters of a trillion dollars. that is just the u.s.. the environmental cost to vietnam, not to mention laos and cambodia, is incalculable. this is the first major u.s. defeat since world war ii, if we don't count korea, where he ended up where we started. i don't know all the reasons for the war. i like to point to a few because these are the reasons that still persist today. theoretically the war was to stop communism from spreading. something called the domino theory was invoked. if vietnam fell, other non-communist countries around would become communists.