tv 1968 - America in Turmoil Vietnam War CSPAN August 6, 2018 8:02pm-9:35pm EDT
all are available on spotify or watch any time on cspan.org on our 1968 page. >> cspan, where history unfolds daily. in 1979, cspan was created as a public service by america's cable television companies. today, we continue to bring you unfilter coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court, and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. cspan is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. 1968 is considered a turning point in the vietnam war. cspan produced a detailed look into 1968, america in turmoil covering the major military, political, and diplomatic developments in the war that year. our guests are vietnam veteran and former navy secretary jim webb and author david mariness. ,
ja this is s american history tv. d from a tough battle in the north. >> these marines have just returned from a tough battle in the innovate. they are now in a defensive perimeter. their weapons are cleaned and cared for before a thought can be given to personal comfort. ve this is leneither a arned clean easy life for our men, but they've learned to accept the physical hardships of battle as their fathers did before them. in this famous him, here in in their famous hym, marines recall battles fought. here in vietnam except for snow, they prove it from the soft ooze of the rice patties they move from swift running
canals and streams, then push forward into the jungles that freeze the mountains where elephant grass tears at the skin while vines tangle the feet and giant trees cut off the sun. , each and every it's not just a matter of long walks in the tropical heat. each and every step must be a cautious one for the viet kong prepared the way with mines and boobie traps. mine. shells waiting for the unwary foot and you will a hidden shell sits waiting for the unwary foot. piecing -- innocent looking piece of and you'll never know which innocent-looking piece of grass or fern covers sharpened bamboo spikes. marine engineers must constantly sweep the roads and trails in search of killer mines. troops provide a screenf the troops must provide a ty screen of security behind which
americans can assist the vietnamese in the revolutionary rebuilding on their nation. it is necessary to constantly patrol to deny reentry to the vietkong. marines initiate hundreds of small patrols and ambushes each week. one of the most difficult jobs in this war without a front is to distinguish friend from foe. r each person must be carefully search and identified, whether vc or turned up by such scrutiny or captured in combat, they are treated with fairness under the rules of the geneva convention. treatment of a cruey quickly marines have found that such treatment of an often cruel enemy often results in the proffering of information that reveals the whereabouts of an enemy force. marines react qui. rapid
in possession of such knowledge, marines react quickly, plans a rapidly formlated, and a striking force moves out swiftly. in, they are met by small arms as they move in on the enemy's position, they are met by intensive small arms fire that results in some casualties, but the attack is carried to the enemy stronghold. host: that film from 1967 and >> again, that film from 1967 and the narration of jack webb as we begin our conversation looking back 50 years ago. 1968: a year in turmoil, a special series here on the cspan networks. we're pleased to welcome jim webb, author of i heard my country calling, a graduate of the u.s. naval academy. thanks for being with us.
and david, he's an associate editor of the washington post and the author of how many books now? >> 12. >> one of them, they marched into sunlight. early in 1968, who was winning the vietnam war? >> no one was winning. everyone was losing. the united >> why? >> there stawere a teslot of different reasons. the united states government without telling the public this had already basically decided that they didn't know how to win the war and didn't necessarily want to win the war. upported the war. the public still, more than 50% of the people in the country still supported the war, but it was completely unknown what was going to happen next. so i would say that everyone was losing at that point. >> you at the naval academy in the 1960s, what was that like as you and your colleagues prepared to serve in combat? >> i got to the academy in 1964 right when the gulf of tonken
incident occurred, graduated in 1968 after the tet offensive, and people seemed to understand pretty clearly that there were objectives over there. the best place to start is what is it we were attempting to achieve and how could you even measure that now? we saw now how the war ended but what was it looking like in 1968? first of all, there were valid strategic reasons for us to have gone into vietnam. if you look at the east asian region as a whole coming out of world war ii, it was torn apart by war. japan had receded back into its boundaries. the european colonial powers had left, and there was a lot of turmoil in terms of governmental systems and economic systems. we had the korean war, and there was legitimate
international communist movement. we can smile a little bit about that now, but it was legitimate. hochimin had trained in moscow for years. was how do a great exchange between t him and stalin back in 1924. the question was how to you fight the war and what was going on back here with the movements in articulating what our objectives were. when i was in vietnam on any given day as a marine, on any given day we were fighting three different wars. a conventional war against the vietcong. we were fighting an insurgency war and we were fighting a terrorist war, which this country didn't really understand at that time. that's the reason that john kennedy decided to put american troops into vietnam in 1961. the communist assassination squads were killing 11 government officials a day. how do you take all that and say who was winning and who was
losing in the middle of that sort of turmoil. it's hard to say. >> let me take senator webb's point about the objective. as you look at ken burns' award- winning documentary, it shifted from truman to kennedy. was it a shifting objective by 1968? 1967, the policy that shifted, yes. >> by late 1967, the policy had shifted, yes. mcnamara, the pentagon papers have not come and defense secretary mcnamara, they basically decided they were not going to win the war. the best they could do was a stalemate. that's what they were dealing with at that time. the war has to be dealt with in three ways. one is the military, which jim was part of. one is the policy, which is completely different. one is society and what was happening in the united states at that time. >> that's outlined in your book, they marched into
sunlight. i want to put three components on the table. you have the anti-war demonstrations around the country, including madison, wisconsin. you have the dow chemical and napalm bombings and the horrific deaths of so many people in vietnam. tie the three together. >> it wasn't just napalm, it was also agent orange that dow made. the protests at the june versety of wisconsin in october of 1967 was the first student protest that turned into a violent confrontation on campus. it was against that chemical company recruiting on the campus at a time when some students were vehemntly opposed to the war. there's an interesting connection you can only make in retrospect. as much as these students were protesting the war for a combination of idealism and self-interest that they didn't want to fight in the war, they were also opposing two
chemicals which had a profound negative effect on the soldiers and all the people of vietnam. napalm was destroying villages and was working as a weapon in that war. but agent orange was the one that had the most long-term debilitating effects on the people of vietnam and the soldiers. many who fought in 1967 and were dying of bladder cancer in their 60s because of the effects of agent orange. >> did you see that? >> i was in the marine corps. i was in areas where it was used. but at the same time, let's again take a look at the framework under which this war was being fought. i think it was the most complicated war the united states has ever had to fight. it's not necessarily a negative thing to say at this point that maybe a stalemate given the strategic circumstances and the
power of the anti-war movement here was an acceptable goal at a certain point just like north korea versus south korea, just like east germany versus west germany. that's what a lot of people looked at what we were going to do. can you preserve a portion of a country and develop an incipient democracy and have something different come out of it? south korea versus north korea is a great example. the other thing i think should be remembered is that there were at the extreme left, there were people who had revolutionary goals in this country that didn't connect with vietnam at first. mocratic the great example of that, the students for a democratic society, the sds, which was the vanguard of a lot of these more violent protests. they were formed in 1962 with the port huron statement at the university of michigan. they thought race would be the
issue with which they could galvanize america into revolutionary change. the war came along. the war affected everyone, potentially every family, and it folded into these other issues that they were debating. . i've wri you know, , the north vietnames -- i spent a lot of time there during the war and after the war. i've written several books, and this was a memoir partly about vietnam. one of hethe key characters in his book about vietnam was he was the colonel on the palace grounds at the end of 1975. he later said that the rear front of the communist effort was here to galvanize the anti- war movement and demoralize the
war. that folded into, as david said, a lack of clarity on the political and strategic objectives. the other thing i think again needs to be said because it isn't talked about enough is the policy of the communist government since 1958. its classic policy of communism to have assassination as a key element of a strategy. they would go after people who were a part in any way of the leadership of south vietnam. we had 11 government officials a day by 1960 when john kennedy decided we needed to do something. we didn't know how to do that. we had incidents that were regretful and disgusting. generally, they were the result of emotional over load and people just blowing it. they were aberrations from what
our policy is legally or morally. that's not true on the other side. and when you look at the way it was talked about and used as an example in a number of these recent documentaries, communist contract until south vietnamese people assassinated them when they had temporary control. we don't hear them talking about that. t >> remind our audience, wathere a number of ways for them to engage in our conversation. if you are a vietnam veteran, we'd love to hear from you. and for all others, 202-748- 8001. you can also follow us on twitter at cspan history. we have a poll that is now under way on who was winning in 1968. we'd love to have you participate, and we'll share your thoughts on that as well. >> i'd like to respectfully disagree with some of that. i think you can take sds and
the revolution in the united states as one thing, but that doesn't represent the anti-war movement, which was more diverse than that and much more oriented toward other things than just trying to have a revolution in the united states. >> by the way, i would agree with you on that. e. >> a little bit of a stretch to take it to that place. there are valid reasons to oppose the war that had nothing to do with that. on the vietnamese side, i agree the anti-war movement was naive thinking this was just a civil war in that it was involved in the south and the north vietnamese and the soviet union and china were controlling it, which they were. but nonetheless, that doesn't make the war itself valid just because of that. it doesn't make what the united states response was valid, as we'll see in 1968. >> the tet offensive, referring to the lunar new year, what was that? what was the objective by the
military? >> there was a debate in the north vietnamese military whether to do it or not. >> well, the most famous north vietnamese general opposed it, but there was a stronger side that prevailed. , generally 31s, 1968 jus this was the lunar new year january 31, 1968. what they decided was they would have a massive attack everywhere they could to try to discombobulate the americans and the south vietnamese and to have a publicity effect on things. there would be a lot of casualties, which in fact happened. cts but one in terms f plasticity -- in terms of publicity. >> i'm going to show something and get your reaction. this is from the south vietnamese army explaning what happened in early 1968, the tet offensive. it runs about a minute and a half. >> at the end of january 1968,
a festive spirit as everyone appeared for the lunar new year. for the people of vietnam, it is a joyous and sacred time of the year. this will be the first spring of the second republic of vietnam. eem to promise the people safe holiday proposed by the communist north vietnamese seem to promise the people a safe holiday. on the eve of the new year, thousands of families fall before the altars of their ancestors. they pray that peace might be restored to their homeland. the firecrackers became the fireworks of war. the votecong taking advantage of the noisy celebration launched a savage attack on saigon. inferno. violating a truce they
themselves proposed. -- block ar the city became a blazing inferno. urned block after block with the the capitol city burned with the fires of vietcong treachery. >> late 1968. two months later, president lyndon johnson announced he would not seek another term. but the speech was primarily on vietnam and the tet offensive. here's what lbj said march 31, 1968. >> their attack during the tet holidays failed to achieve its principle objective. it did not collapse the collective government of south vietnam or shatter its army as the communists hoped. it did not produce a general uprising among the people of the cities, as they had predicted. control
the communists were unable to maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. they did and they took very heavy casualties. allies to move but they did compel the south vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the country side into the cities. s that they caused widespread disruption and suffering. their attacks on the battles that followed made refugees of half a million human beings. they the communists may renew their attack any day. make 1 they are, it appears, trying to make 1968 the year of decision in south vietnam. the year that brings, if not final victory or defeat, at least a turning point in the struggle. march 31, 1968. jim we >> again, march 31, 1968.
jim webb, you were wrapping up your tenure at the u.s. naval academy. you heard the speech? >> i'm sure i did. >> what was happening in this time frame? >> here's what i think we need to do. i know this is a show about 1968, but it's very difficult to talk about the vietnam war and freeze frame it into one year or even a few months out of one year. >> certainly. vietnam >> by the way, my wife was born in vietnam during the tet offensive in 1968, and her family remembers it well. they became refugees after the fall of saigon. one thing that you will see in the communist strategy on the vietnam war is every presidential year they were able to mobilize some sort of an offensive that would get the attention over here, and that's what happened in tet 68. by the way, this is kind of interesting because we just
showed a clip of south vietnamese explanation. in so many of these other documentaries, you get straight propaganda footage out of hanoi and we get direct interviews with the american marines and soldiers who are reminiscing in a very personal way. they're set next to each other and people can be led to one conclusion or another. winning militarily, the 20th anniversary of the fall of saigon, 1995, hanoi announced officially they had lost 1.4 million soldiers dead. we lost 58,000. the south vietnamese lost 245,000. that clearly on the battlefield, our people did their job. difficult. in n terms of articulating our message, it was very difficult because it was an evolving message. it was very unclear as to what goals were going to continue as
the situation changed over there. reading but, you know, i can remember reading during tet 68 the washington post. peter braystrip, who was one of the great war correspondents during the vietnam war, he spent three years over there. you could read the front page of the washington post and have straight-up factual reporting on the battle and some of these other things. you get to some of the other pages -- and i've been a political person over there, and it was okay, this isn't working. it's time to do something else. very difficult for the country to process what a win, what a loss was. the tet offensive wasy until much later. even as david was saying, the tet offensive was a military failure. that's not what was being reported at the time by a lot of journalists. >> in one final point, you
talk about what's happening on the home front. you have the tet offensive. >> 1200 americans killed in one week in one week. >> and then you had president johnson's speech. >> before that, you have march 12th the new hampshire primary. mccarthy doesn't win but gets 42% of the vote. robert f. kennedy enters the race. primary when it johnson is about to lose the wisconsin primary the next day when he decides not to run on march 31st. >> walter cronkite says the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. how significant was that? >> there were only three
networks that walter cronkite was considered the voice of middle america. that comment was vitally important. lbj said a post-editorial writer who supported the war was worth two divisions. and probably cronkite was an entire army. >> our conversation with david and jim webb, former u.s. senator, former navy secretary, and let's get to your phone calls. james in washington, d.c., a veteran of the vietnam war. >> thank you. boys half of my class from south carolina, 21 boys, 12 were vietnam veterans. i was at plaku. there were over 8000 american nurses, soldiers, marines would volunteer for vietnam almost
every year of the war. you could not none of the presidents to move on the backlog of over 4000 people waiting two and three years. gunners, infantry people like myself year after year they can't make our plans. >> you dealt with that in the senate. >> i dealt with it as the first vietnam veteran to serve in the congress back in 1977. i worked in the veterans committee. i've been working veterans issues pro bono or professionally all my life. to the gentleman, thank you for serving. there's been a misconception of how proud the people who served in vietnam are. we did a survey in 1980.
a $6 million survey exhaustive about attitudes toward vietnam veterans, 91% of the people who served were glad that they served. 74% said they enjoyed their time in the military. two out of three said even knowing the end result of the war, they would go back again. in terms of the va, when i got to the senate in 07, the va backlog was 600,000 claims. part of that when i left, it was 900,000 claims. increasing difficulty of the and part of that was the increasing difficulty of the system with attorneys involved in a way they hadn't been before and the litigation. but a lot of it was just plain leadership inside the va. i worked very hard on that, and one of the other lessons from vietnam is that the gi bill for the people who served in vietnam was minuscule compared to the world war ii gi bill
that enabled the futures of 8 million of our 16 million world war ii soldiers. i wrote and passed when i was in the senate in 16 months the post-9/11 gi bill, which is the best gi bill in the history of the country. i'm very proud of it. >> i'd like to say everything that happens with the va is a reminder that wars don't end when the battles end. they go on for the rest of the lives of the soldiers who fought in them. >> joe is next, also a vietnam veteran from silver spring, maryland. good morning. >> good morning, gentlemen. how are you doing today? the question about winning the war to me, the people who won the war are the people who supplied the bombs and bullets in vietnam. incident, the gulf of and any n,war thereafter. checd regarding the incident the gulf of tonken, i read and i double
checked it that prior to the gulf of tonken, the u.s. had advisors who were running things with the vietnamese against the south vietnamese at the time. the gulf of tonken was supposed to be a push back. presently, i work for the va, and i see disability claims. and these claims are fraught with incidents of undiagnosed illness, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. these are not bombs and bullets, but this is the type of things that this war here and the vietnam war has brought to us. we don't seem to get the message that we have to keep our young men and women safe and not put them in this kind of harm's way. thank you very much and have a great day. >> this goes back to our earlier point about agent orange. >> very much so. there are a lot of different aspects to that, and definitely
there was -- i mean, every war has a material aspect to it of people benefiting from the war. you know, you can make the argument that the war is fought because of that. i disagree with that. i think it's a byproduct of it. wars are fought because of policy up and down whether it's right or not and not for the economics of it. >> we are beginning a nine-part series here on cspan. we look at 1968 and the vietnam war. >> can i make a comment on what the gentleman said about who wins. with respect issues like agent orange, i've worked on these since 1978. i tried to find the nexus between the use of actually it's dioxine as a component in agent orange. resolve it for veterans who were
time to get long that to a place where we can resolve it for the veterans who were affected. but lee quan yu who created modern singapore was one of the most brilliant minds in the last 100 years in east asia. he repeatedly used to say the united states effort in vietnam actually created a win for the region because it slowed down these sorts of revolutionary movements, and it allowed these other countries to invigorate new governmental systems and economic systems. and i think when we put into the formula of the attempt that we made to preserve an incipient democracy there, there were very strong positive long-term results out of them. >> there were more than a million vietnamese deaths and
58,000 american deaths. >> was the u.s. winning the vietnam war in 1968? that's our question on twitter. right now, we appreciate your participation. 38% said yes. 62% said no. david mariness of the washington post and jim webb, a former u.s. senator. another vietnam veteran on the phone, good morning. >> hello. washington and the world is listening to these station. i have direct knowledge about why the vietnam war went on. it goes all the way back to the turn of the century when the french went there and the economists went there to take charge of endo-china. they utilized it as a steppingstone for their economy
of rubber plantations and opium. would say when yo >> david, u gois that correct? >> i would say that when you go to vietnam, jim has gone there almost every year. i've been there for my book. and you will see that in the perspective of the vietnamesee today, the americas are the country they hate the least out of the french, the chinese, and the americans because the french colonized them. that's a far different thing than fighting a war. i think the french aspect was totally economic, and i think the rubber plantations were a vital part of that. >> how does history view his involvement, his role? >> let me say something about what was just said here because i think it's an important part of how we process this war. pes i hope more k people in this country will talk to the
vietnamese-american community. you will learn about a lot of the stakes that were in play during this war that we never talk about. when you talk to the yes, the french colonized vietnam. and by the way, when you talk to the vietnamese -- and i speak vietnamese, and i can get away from the translators. the japanese were the worst occupiers of vietnam. they killed and starved about a million vietnamese. they have a long colonial history. the question in this post-world war ii period was how does vietnam move forward away from a colonial system? and there were a number of anti- french political groups and leaders that were also anti- communist and a great percentage of them got killed before we got there when hochi minn was taking over and
solidifying the communist system. a lot of the vietnamese who were on our side, we continually forget about. 240,000 of them died on our side. 1 million were sent to reeducation camps after the war. 13.5 years in reeducation camps after the war. came here, rebuilt a life in a system that if it had been in place over there, you would see you would see an explosion. they were very patient working with the vietnamese government today to open up the doors and recreate the bonds between the north vietnamese ands the communist government. but there was a lot at stake for them in terms of how that future would play out. >> jim, wouldn't it be better to say that the united states was on their side rather than they were on our side? i think ther >> i think both e is true. i think both is true.
i think that there were common interests strategically for us and governmentally and politically for them. they've been great americans. >> let me go to senator westmooreland. how does history view his role in this? >> i don't want to sum this up. this is out of the area where i spent my time. for the united states marines in vietnam, 103,000 were killed and wounded. more total casualties than any other war. i will tell you, every war has its downsides. but in terms of serving their country and doing their job, they're the finallest people i've ever been around. >> from my perspective, westmooreland was a disaster. the key point in my book in october of 1967, he was the one pushing the hardest to say this
war could be won as a battle of attrition. search and destroy, find the enemy, and kill them. >> johnson was saying give me numbers and we'll reenforce that, right? >> he was buying into it, even though he had no clue how they were ever going to win the war. >> i want to get your reaction to cronkite again. it seems now more certain than ever for the bloody experience of vietnam is to end in a stalemate. i gain, this is february of 1968. you're about to graduate from the naval academy and then serve our country. how significant was this here on the home front? academy and . >> well, actually, a factual correction. walter cronkite made a different broadcast that i don't think was widely published. but a different tape saying something when he was finishing up his time in vietnam saying something much more positive
than that. in terms of a stalemate, here's what i was believing and i still believe when i went into vietnam. was first of all, i had just taken four years of education from the naval academy to learn to serve my country. the war was not going to go away, and they needed leadership. that's what i did. i used to tell people on the political side of this, five years from now, six years from now i'll come back and i'll tell you really what i think. one of the things i saw, you know, we keep mocking vietnamization. when they announced vietnamization, i was a rifle commander and then i was a company commander. we worked with some of these units and they were good. the belief that i had was the young arbans coming up my age and younger that were being trained and learned different
ways of military leadership were strong and over time, perhaps maybe even in the formula of north and south korea, how long have we waited? some day korea will unite. i worked in europe as assistant secretary of defense, and no one believed that germany was going to unite as quickly as they did. you could have seen that same potential in vietnam. >> but vietnam has united. it's not the state it was in the 19 90s. it's a very different place today. you would agree with that. >> there's no way you can turn back the clock. i started working with the vietnamese inside vietnam and the vietnamese community here for many years. the one thing i do is say the same thing inside vietnam as i do here. sometimes that got me in trouble because the mantra from the communists when they see the american veterans is shake
hands, make peace with your future. shake the hand of the arban that you put in the reeducation camp for 13.5 years, great, let's all move together in the future. >> are there physical remnants of the war as you travel back to the country? >> when i was first going back in 91-92, 92 we would go the entire length of the country. i was back with a humanitarian mission. >> which took how long? >> it took about a month. we went up to hanoi and then drove highway 1, the national road, all the way to cambodia. . let us help treat the the agreement was let's treat veterans from both sides. let us help treat the amputees who were in the south vietnamese army and we'll also treat the people. let's bring it together. at that point, there were a lot
of, you know, what you would call remnants or reminders. some of them were deliberate. the communists are very smart. they would leave a remnant of a base so whenever you would drive by an american base, you would see the weeds growing up, and you would remember those people left us. battlefields. but yeah, i went out to the battlefield. e first vietnam veo the arizona i think i was the first veteran to go out in the valley where we fought. >> was that surreal? people especially early on? >> it helped me, actually, to go talk to the people who had been under fire from both sides and to go out and see the places i spent a good bit of my life with. and then, you know, the hanoi side, the communist side built many, many cemeteries for their
soldiers and victory monuments and those sorts of things. >> david, you were there in 2005-2006. it's available on our website at cspan.org. what did you see? >> we saw many remnants. we went to the site, the battlefield in the book which is on a creek 44 miles north west of saigon and met a foreman there who fought with the vietcong in that battle. we went with the north vietnamese division commander and with clark welch who was the commander of one of the companies of the first division black lions who fought in that battle. then we met the farmer who had been there at that time. he walked us out to the exact site of the battle and met one of his sons who the year before
had lost his arm when an american bomb exploded as he was working that field. that's a remnant. we also went up to hanoi. i'm sure jim has visited what they call the peace hospital. i don't think it's propaganda when you see the descendants, young girls 13-14 years old with my at a mutated limbs largely from some of the effects of the munitions. >> without having a government handler come in and pre-brief the enemy on the other side so we can do the something, i walk out in the arizona valley and a lot of these other areas and bump into people who would talk about what they did. there was an enormous respect for the american marines who fought out there and from the
other side. i bumped into a veteran of a big battle we were in in 1969 who didn't know where i was coming from or why i was there. i was looking at an area where some of my marines had died, and we just stumbled into a conversation. and those are healthy as long as everybody is allowed to participate. >> the most profound experience i had was watching clark welch, the american, the tremendous leader of one of the companies walk arm in arm with the commander of the vietcong first division. they walked through the battlefield together. two men who didn't speak the same language, who tried to kill each other some 40 years ago, and were respecting each other that whole time as they walked through the battlefield. turmoil. the driving issue was the vietnam war as we begin a nine-
part series. you can follow all of it on our website at cspan.org and follow us on twitter at cspan history. we have clive joining us. >> thank you for taking my call. i want to be brief and succinct. i'm very proud of the fact that my father, while he was quite old when i was born, served in world war i. i enlisted in the navy in 1967. i was proud to also have performed and achieved conscious objection after enlisting in the navy. i got orders to vietnam and served in the rivers over there for one year. i could have refused ordered but i didn't. we had all the napalm and munitions up and down the river at night. eaders. we need to be very careful, very very careful who we elect
as our leaders. we pulled out finally in 1975. nixon went to china when? who supplied the vietnamese besides russia? china. character. very much matters. these are my points. moral character, ethical character very, very much matters. and the truth, and i mean the truth, we need to get back on track with these people we elect and the decisions they make that put so many people and families in harm's way. and thank you very much for taking my points. thank you so much. >> there are a couple of things at play here. first of all, his service in vietnam and what he saw. and alts the election of lyndon johnson in 1964 promising to let asian boys do that and not american soldiers. >> i appreciate your call. i don't know if i'm seeing you or not with the camera in front of me. there are a couple of important points that were made there.
one of the things i learned during the vietnam period, not just during my service, was to respect anyone in this country who was operating within our legal system when it comes to whether you serve, whether you don't serve. and there were a lot of people who felt very strongly on the other side. respect no diquestion about that. the other is, we need to respect the tradition of serving the country for those who step forward. the vietnam war has been characterized as a draftees war. i did a lot of research, looking at the data. who served? how long? how does it compare to other wars? two-thirds of people went into the military during vietnam were volunteers. history of volunteering.
when you asked me what was my political view in 1968, i was a marine. that was going to be my life. my son during the iraq period, he and i both were very opposed to the strategy going into iraq. i wrote a piece in the washington post 5 months before the invasion. i said this will empower iran and china. my son dropped out of penn state and fought during some of the worst fighting in iraq. my father, like this gentleman, served. not career people like the mccain family who i greatly admire and respect. but when the time comes, we serve. host: you will also hearm senator mccain. president lyndon >> we did an interview with
james jones, and he had said that richard nixon undercut any efforts by johnson to bring an end to the war. >> there's an excellent biography of richard nixon by my friend john pharell who found notes in the nixon library writing about the way they were trying to undercut the efforts of the peace talks right before that election. att time. it is conclusive that was going on. i kethink it's pretty conclusiv now that, that was going on. can i make a larger point about the truth? because he mentioned this truth there. you can argue about policy, but one thing it's hard to argue about during that period of the vietnam war is that the united states government was lying. so it's the military. make the at that point, they were lying about body count.
why? because they wanted to make the argument we could win the war. if they killed enough north vietnamese and vietcong, they would win the war. this was a devastating loss to the black lions baa cxsgsufalion. nolan lied about what happened. >> this may be too simplistic. why did president johnson simply not pull the plug? why not say we're leaving, peace with honor, we're going to leave vietnam and let the vietnamese deal with this issue? >> i would say it has to deal with politics in the united states and the democratic party and the way the republican party dominated the notion of patriotism and the cold war through that period. >> just to sort of round this out, in terms of body counts, two things can be said about
body counts. first of all, it was a war of attrition. hochimin used to say for every one of you we kill, you'll 10 of us, and you will get tired. it came out pretty exact. 1.4million soldiers dead, whether one battle or another was exaggerated, they were losing an awful lot of people. . so, you know, that just needs t to be said. -- in palm >> frank joining us from palm bay, florida. a lot of vietnam vets on this sunday. we appreciate it. go ahead, frank. >> i have a question for jim webb. i was with the 5th marines the same time he was, and i know exactly where the village was where he got wounded at. and i wanted to know if he remembers the frustration that we used to feel by going to the
same places day in and day out and taking the same wounded, and they knew exactly when we were coming and going. and it was just the same thing day in and day out. time. it was in and you got hit next to anderson hill, and we used to go there all the time. it was in and out and in and out. we felt such frustration because we weren't getting anywhere. >> can you stay on the line? >> it's good to hear from somebody who was in the 5th marines. actually, the first time i was wounded was off of anderson hill, the second was in the arizona valley. one of the things that was frustrating as a rifle platoon and company commander was the lack of continuity of our intelligence. i was sitting with a very good friend of mine years ago, it's the reason i mentioned this the
second time, who got his eye shot out in the arizona valley. we were sitting in his backyard, and i said where were you wounded? ut a map and said t a map, and he said right there. i said are you kidding me? i was wounded like 800-meters away from where you were wounded only 2 months later. that's just the inevitable when you have these operations that are continually over the same airs ya trying to make contact with the enemy and to find, fix, and destroy as the 5th marines used to say. that was our job, and we did it well. and it was extremely frustrating, i agree with you, and the 5th marines took a lot of casualties. >> frank, did you want to follow up? >> no. thanks for taking my call. i really appreciate it. i really enjoy jim's books and hopefully can make a bigger impact on our vietnam vets.
>> semper fi. >> you mentioned senator john mccain. brian lamb sat down with him in his office. he was a prisoner of war in vietnam for 5.5 years. here's part of that interview. >> one of the great things about being a fighter pilot is you're sure everybody else is going to get shot down but not you. ha, ha, ha. many vietnamese were around you in that lake? >> and when that happened, how many vietnamese were around you in that water in that lake? >> when i first went in, it's a long story, but i was barely able to get back to the surface. but then a bunch of them jumped in and there's a picture which i'm sure you'll show of them pulling me out of the lake. onct you can hesee my arm is broken and up high. and then, of course, once they pulled me out, they weren't very happy to see me. >> why not? >> because i just finished
bombing the place. it got pretty rough. broke my shoulder and hurt my knee again. war. i didn' but look, i don't blame them. i don't blame them. we're in a war. time i didn't like it. but at the same time, when you're in a war and you're captured by the enemy, you can't expect to have tea. so they pulled me out -- long story short, pulled me out of the lake, put me in a truck, beat me up a little or a lot, and then went to the now-famous hanoi hilton prison, which was just a short drive away. a 5-minute drive away. and then it's a very long story about how they found out who my father was, and they decided to give me treatment and two
wonderful americans who thought they moved me in to die, they took care of me, and nursed me back to health. after they saw me in better health, they put me into solitary confinement. >> that full interview is available on our website at cspan.org. 40 years ago this past week, his release from captivity, and you can see him walking to freedom. senator webb? >> john mccain is a great friend. i've known him since 1978, and i tease him all the time because when i go to hanoi, if you drive one little road out to the west lake, you'll see this plaque that me moralizes where john mccain went into the lake. he's the only american who has a memorial to him inside vietnam. >> what about morrison, the guy who tried to kill mcnamara also
has a plaque there. >> that doesn't surprise me. john's getting shot down, i guess there are reasons they might put a plaque there. he did get great service. he's got a lot of grace in him about what the implications of war are. >> explain that story. e plaquef >> i don't know too much about it, but he's considered a hero in parts of vietnam. >> let's get back to your phone calls. fred is joining me from austin, texas. when and where did you serve? >> i served 1970-71. i served as an air combat infantry man and i carried the m-60 machine gun in the bush, the jungle, the mountains, and the rice patties.
there's one thing i'd like to point out. the combat infantry men who went over there and suffered through all that, and that was that the politicians were making the rules of engagement so we could barely defend ourselves. when you come back from a mission to the rear for a couple of days, we'd see that the civilians that were working there in the mess halls that were hired, they were vietnamese. and of course, we carried vietnamese scouts. these were the captured prisoners that were converted into scouts to come along with us. of course, they weren't the most trust worthy. we had our backs to the wall and we had no way to protect ourselves as the rules of engagement changed for political reasons. it's the same thing. if you weren't there, you put down on paper these rules. and the combat infantry men in
a dire situation where they're risking their lives. that was the one thing that irked me. i'm proud to have served, and all i want to do is say all the way i was with the 82nd airborne division state side. >y thank you. i was in that first marine division. .he mountains separated us .e still see flares every night appreciate what you did. it was a very bad area in terms of combat in vietnam. out.oing to give one shout there were not many people from professional sports world who i will give one little shout out here. there were many people from the professional sports world who went to vietnam and one was roger staubach the heisman trophy winner who volunteered. and then another was rocky bleier. he was the notre dame, great
blocking back with the pittsburgh steelers. i think he accepted the draft. or he might a volunteered. he was wounded, there was a series of fights and he was wounded at the same time that the stuff was going on for us. i have always had a tremendous regard for him. the rules of engagement were strict. that became more strict. many times it was frustrating. but we are a nation of rules and i want to emphasize this again because one of the great failings on our side and actually bernard points this out in the book, was that we used artillery and supporting arms, tactically. we set a perimeter up and you had your on calls at night because the enemy would not get
staged and attack you pirkle but it was random because they could see this coming out. the communists used assassination as a tool of their policy, the worst thing that i saw was when the people would say the south vietnamese is all corrupt. we made sure the company commander said let's get him out here and have a meeting then we got 30 delegates. so at the bottom of the perimeter we had 30 people in a small room. they came in with three men so 19 out of the 30 people, for had not connected with the south vietnamese government. they need to own up. i said this to my friends. my friends and the government, they need to own up that a lot of the stuff went on as a
matter of policy. >> let me remind the audience that we are focusing on america 1968, american tour mold. it was the first of a nine part series on american history tv. it is available in our website c-span.org. we have jim webb. -- and marine corps veteran. naval academy graduates. correct? -- >> since we are talking about 1968, it was march 16, 1968 when my lai happened. it wasn't revealed for another year but when you talk about rules of engagement, that was the worst thing that happened. hundreds of old people, kids, civilians were literally
slaughtered by american troops. it wasn't for another heroic american helicopter pilot who stopped it. it could've gone on for longer. of course war is awful in all this but there have to be certain ethical and moral rules of engagement standards or that will happen. >> the objective of my lai was what? >> the objective was to -- several hundred died, at least 500. >> let me go to an earlier call her about what was happening on the home front. we had the fulbright hearings in washington, how significant were they? >> every step of that was significant. you have to understand that in 1968, the war lasted for another seven years. in terms of the turning point,
in terms of congressional approval over the next two or three years, things got worse considerably. let's finish this thought. i don't know the exact number of people who were killed at me like, whatever it was it was -- we recognize this. i hope i can make this. we recognize that and our legal system and in our system of morality, we declare this as an aberration and we still condemn it. three weeks before my lai, communist cadre lined up about 2000 vietnamese and killed them. because they were connected to the south vietnamese government . it was a part of their policy. we can't seem to get that into the history. i can accept -- when we are talking about -- when we allow
one side to cleanse their history, film footage that basically was the propaganda footage that was documentaries and when we don't point this out it seems like we were the evil source and that's all that was going on. i accept that there is a different system in vietnam that i would like to have seen. i worked very hard with it, i was in companies in vietnam in the 1990s when the trade embargo was listed. we need to have an honest discussion about it. >> thank you very much for taking my call. first, senator webb, thank you for your service. i was in the service and afterwards in congress and government. i was at west point from 68-72. a classmate of mine wrote a book
about vietnam in retrospect and he -- one thesis was that in large part the general staff wanted to run the war on the same model that the europeans ran in world war ii. there were some pilot projects where what he called the inkblot approach of secure and every, providing 24 hour protection to the indigenous forces as well as our military. then gradually expanding those to the people would see the benefit of peace and of a change of government. those projects either had successes, they were abandoned because the higher level priorities. also, concerning -- if you had
been addressed in -- if you had been running as a republican, i would be addressing you as president webb. [ laughter ] during vietnam, people protested too much, i think. in retrospect, i have different feelings about that. i now feel that because people don't have skin in the game, they don't have family at risk, people don't protest enough. we still had the draft and people -- military service was more widespread. we would have different policies today in terms of iraq and afghanistan and elsewhere. thank you very much. >> excellent points. one thing that i went through when my son was in iraq, it's wanting to go fight but it is another thing to have your kid
or your spouse over there. it is a totally different feeling. they used to say that if one third of the congress had family members or close people they would wake up every morning and wake up every morning and wonder if their son was alive. you have a totally different view about how use of force is made in the country. i think absolutely nothing that he said that i would disagree with other than i'm not sure i would want to be a republican. [ laughter ] >> i think the draft fueled the fire of the antiwar movement. it was self-interest aspect to the -- every young man of my age was debating what they would do if they were drafted. they had girlfriends and parents and it created that atmosphere that led to -- i gary
-- i agree completely that you can't protest enough. it is the lifeblood of american democracy. >> you wrote about that in your book. this is a photograph, an ap photo from eddie adams and it is called in the washington post a turning point in the war. this is an iconic photograph from 1968, february that your, the south vietnamese brigadier general shooting a vietcong enlisted soldier. >> that was during the tet offensive. it is just capturing the moment like that -- has a power beyond the reality of what was happening in terms of those two people. it is just like the nightly broadcast in vietnam which was showing much more than we saw in iraq in terms of the
brutality of 4. it affects people in a more visceral way. met senator webb would you agree that the washington post pictured that it shocked the world and helped in the war? >> i would say first of all the facts of that, i know eddie adams. he passed away, he was a photography -- photographer on a number of stories that i did. then he was also a marine in korea. the individual who was shot had just killed family members of the the people, exactly what we are talking about in terms of killing people. i am not sure that was a general, i know he was some sort of chief but eddie adams -- i have written about this, when he was receiving the award for the photograph, i think the dutch press organization and when they read this sort of comment about his picture, he
cried. that was not the intention of making a photograph like that. he was a professional photographer. >> it describes the south vietnamese brigadier general. and national police. >> from athens, ohio, this is chester. >> in reference to the photo, that police chief and what he had done, he had killed several people in the village so basically he was terrorist, that's what he was. he deserved to be shot. >> let me interrupt. we knew eddie adams. did he have any sense this was about to happen? >> eddie adams was a great photographer. i think he saw an event and he just started snapping and that's what came out. the gentleman makes an excellent point because that was the point that we were
trying to make. >> go ahead. >> my point is talking about the protests and i think we should be allowed to protest but you have to be careful with these folks. a lot of folks -- that foreign policy that controlled what we did over there, by protesting all of this, we couldn't expand the war and what it did was handcuff our troops. you couldn't go to cambodia or laos. they stayed over thou -- there and they handcuffed us. i think you have to be careful when you talk about protest. >> i think the policy led to protest. let's go to bonnie from bellevue, washington. >> i am a wife of the vietnam veteran. of course the war affected us at home equally as those in a
different way as though serving abroad. the question in the point that i want to make is that in 1968, not only were the protest going on, we had gotten from april, may, june of that year, when we had my husband and i were 1964 graduates of high school, in 1968, graduates of college. i don't believe that most people were volunteers. i think my husband was a volunteer, only because he was going to be drafted in three month so he walked in and volunteered because he wanted to choose the time to go. he thought he had no choice. most of our class, we had many who passed away who were killed . ptsd, extreme cases of that
from the class of 64. and the class of 68. 68 when my husband was in training -- we had martin luther king killed, bobby kennedy killed, we had riots, it was a very tumultuous unsettling unhappy time. >> thank you, i want to jump in and remind you that we will focus next week on those political events and thank you for adding that to the conversation. jim webb, do you want to respond? >> first of all, i want to thank you and your husband and his friends for what they did during that period. and for him stepping forward to serve. i know it was difficult for a lot of people making those
decisions. i remember, i know you will talk about it in the next segment, just in the months leading up before i graduated from the naval academy in 1968, martin luther king was killed. april 4. robert kennedy was killed the night before we graduated on june 5. it was 2:00 in the morning and there was a tremendous amount of turmoil in the country. you made a point that i think ought to be on the table and that is a family member of those who serve, i grew up in the military, there was one point when i was young, my dad was gone for 3 1/2 years. he was able to come back for visits but he was stationed overseas. my mom was 24 years he'll -- old and she had no support living alone. now we have a great support structure for our military
people. they had sacrifices that we don't put to the forefront. >> you have studied this more than anyone. going back to 1968, was there a path to victory for the u.s.? >> i think we will disagree about this. i think not. i think that no matter what we had done in the end, it would not be enough. by the end, someone else -- it is possible that it was impossible. it depends on how you define victory. if you defined it as a stalemate then perhaps that could've lasted but i don't think the american public has a taste for that. >> i think that with the growth of the south vietnamese military leaders and -- it
depends on what your objective would've been by 1968 as opposed to 1963, let's say. that was a whole different set of circumstances. i do believe that if we had lived up to our obligations that there would -- we would have been able to have had a stalemate. we don't think -- the chinese think in terms of hundreds of years and we think of terms of months and election cycles. i think we discredit what the younger south vietnamese leadership brought to the table and we shouldn't forget the way the war ended in 1975 when we really pull the plug on them. we left them hanging, i have a lot of friends out there who ended up in camps one way when they were down to two artillery rounds per day. they used to have 600 a day when i was a company commander. >> my brother served two tours. hasn't left a scar on that
generation? >> absolutely. it left a scar on the country. but what about in vietnam? >> the youngest country in the world. the vast majority of the people there consider the american war of aggression as they call it a speed bump in their history. because when the communists took over, there was only one thing that was taught and you had the vietnamese americans, the 2 million american vietnamese who or vietnamese- american -- that is a scar that has to be healed. i worked very hard on that over the years. if you were south vietnamese army veteran in vietnam and -- vietnam, you are not a veteran, you have no. explain that.
know that you have no veteran status. ironically it's like the confederate army after the civil war. states rights got so big in my family is from the part of the country. you're not recognized as a veteran. we are getting no medical care, no sorts of things. the cemeteries for the south vietnamese were allowed to fall apart. there's a big cemetery outside of saigon where they put the word trader over the cemetery and there are thousands of south vietnamese soldiers who had been killed. that needs to be healed. we did this in this country after the civil war, it took a long time. that we did it. there is a confederate memorial in arlington national cemetery which was put there in 1912. i have friends from the vietnamese, the hanoi government who said here, this is how we make peace.
we bring people together. >> that's one thing to bring up again, the confederate issue. we could do a whole show on that. >> we are talking with james webb and david meredith, the urine turmoil, 1968. we have john from los angeles. thank you for waiting. >> good morning, gentlemen and. i find the conversation a little scary. i would like to focus my remarks to the senator who i do believe falls in the category of those who experience things that forget the lessons they are supposed to learn from them. get numb was a terrible war, we should never have been there. i don't know about the senator's recollection but most of the people in the field or people who were drafted in the service. most of those people came back with wounds that haven't been
healed and probably can never be healed. my personal experience was i went over to vietnam volunteering. okay. after my experience of volunteering, i realized that i was doing the wrong thing. most of the people around me realized the same thing. i came back and i wasn't expecting a thank you for your service and i hope you don't say that to me. i came over here realizing i had made a mistake. i was wondering what i could do about it. i started on a quest basically of trying to figure out what the truth is. what's really going on. i found out now that most people in this country never saw the wound that you were talking about. it is definitely healed and sometimes people have wounds that heal they forget the pain. the pain that we have had from those wounds has been torn open by the way we are conducting ourselves in this world today.
we are supporting the hawkish attitudes that this program served is most unsettling and i hope americans are buying into it. >> let me give you some thoughts on that. first of all, in america but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. and have their own reactions to things that they went through. i spent most of my life looking at this issue, the issue of service and what this war was all about. i spent time in vietnam looking at a, i have worked on the veterans committee and i have represented individuals who were wrongly convicted of homicide in vietnam. i did that pro bono. i think there is room for a lot of different opinions. i'm sorry but if you look at the polling data of the people
who served in vietnam, 91% are glad they serve their country .9% are not. 74% said they enjoyed the time in the military to some extent and two out of three said they would do it again. there are people who don't agree with that. however, you look at the view that i've been talking about today with respect to vietnam, i think we should take some time and look at the views that i have had on other different more and policy situations. i would first say that major figure to say that the invasion of iraq was going to be a strategic blunder. five months before the war i said that to the washington post. although my family does have a tradition of service and my son fought in iraq. we are a big country, we are 300 million people, we have a lot of different viewpoints. as david said, i think dissent
and debate is a very healthy thing. i appreciate what you said. >> limit go back to the my lai massacre. director joseph strict interviewed some of those veterans involved in that operation. it led to so many deaths. >> we start -- the soldiers at my lai. they were james burkle, of niagara falls. keurig a fellow of stockton, california. gary crosley of del rio, texas. bernardo simpson of jackson, mississippi. michael bernhardt of tarpon springs, florida. this is a freefall, you can share anything you want. >> man, woman, children, the whole bit. every living thing, that was the order. >> it's something that i
soldier has to do, you take orders. >> we were running around, kill, kill, kill. get that feeling that you can do it. >> at about 7:00, we went into the village and we got off the chopper and started shooting. >> it makes you think that even if they were considered beasts, that you would think that maybe a water buffalo calf or a little piglet would fare better than a child. >> they feel that when they grow, they will be beasts anyway. >> how do they look when you are doing this. >> like they were having a good time. >> everybody was just a busy. >> what you think a war crime is? >> i think a war crime is being over there. >> just the idea of being there. >> infants, women, children.
teenagers. civilians. >> lieutenant william callie who was commander in -- responsible was brought to justice. people tend to forget that there were -- hugh thompson was the american soldier who received hate mail from all over the country and callie got a lot of support. there was a lot of argument even after this happened. just like the young man was saying being there was the work crime. >> and shoot anything that moves. you talk about saluting and following orders. at what point do you say we can't do this. >> it should not have happened, clearly. as a society, i think we understand that legally and morally. as opposed to some things that happened on the other side.
in those kinds of situation, also something should be said and that is the leaders. to be held accountable. i represented an african-american who was 18 years old in vietnam and the squad leader said shot and he shot. the person who gave the order had civilian counsel from the states and got off. my guy had military counsel and he got convicted of murder. i represented him for six year, he killed himself halfway through it but three years later i cleared his name. he's a category 3 be enlistee. and the man said shoot and soak everybody said you're supposed to obey an order. that's one thing i would say. >> in my opinion that goes all the way up to the top. it goes up to the president of the united states. >> john is joining us from
chicago, you get the last word. >> great conversation, guys. they wish we had two more hours. grew up with the fellows. i ran through boot camp with amelio de la garza who got the medal of honor. my wife's first cousin was on the hilltop with the guy name kenny case from souther to southern illinois, who got the medal of honor. about three of my grammar school buddies were joined the marine corps. we all got surprises. you guys talk about gratitude, it has been wonderful to hear you guys talking.
i go to pts meetings with the fellows. that's the guys that you write about in the book. a wonderful conversation. talk about grace and gratitude, you guys. jim, we will meet you later, semper fi, fellows. >> inky durham was one of the soldiers in the battle who got a medal of honor, too. there were 61 men killed in that battle. it is a reminder that wars don't end in the battlefield. >> senator jim webb, thank you. >> this is what america is all about >> the legacy less as today, what are they? >> the vietnam war? when i think of the vietnam war, first of all, i can't help but think about the omission in our conversation is the south vietnamese who are with us.
and how they were treated after the war. the greatest mission i think for me in the healing process is for -- is to reach across and had the vietnamese be together. and that will eventually happen, i think. >> martin luther king on april 4, 1967, one year before he was assassinated at riverside church, he said it if american soldier becomes poison, the autopsy will reveal it was vietnam. >> marine veteran, former navy secretary formal you a senator, james webb. generally, thank you both for being with us. or look at the vietnam war in 1968 and u.s. policy at the time will continue in a moment. u.s. army command professor richard faulkner. we will show
you his lecture on the late 1960s and early 70s. that's followed by a film about the tet offensive, a 50 years ago by south vietnamese armed forces. we are showing you some of american history tv normally seen weekends here on c-span3. we are able to show this to you this week while congress is on its august break. are nine part c-span series 1968:america in turmoil continues throughout the week here on c-span3. each day we focus on a different aspect of the state of u.s. 50 years ago. tuesday the 1968 presidential election as former vice president richard nixon faced democratic nominee and incumbent vice president hubert humphrey. in -- governor wallace who round independent ticket. on thursday the rise of liberal politics with a special look at
the democratic convention in chicago. friday concert of the politics and richard nixon's rise the republican party. all nine parts of the program are available on spotify as a podcast or watch any time at c- span.org on her 1968 page. senate confirmation hearings for brett kavanaugh to be up in court justice are expected in september. senators are likely to question judge kavanaugh about roe versus wade. the 1973 decision that struck down many restrictions on abortion. on tuesday, at 8 pm eastern. c-span's landmark case will have an in-depth look at roe versus wade. we will also hear from los angeles times supreme court reporter david savage discussing judge kavanaugh's nomination and the abortion issue. next on lectures in history, u.s. army command and general staff college professor richard faulkner on the impact of the tet offensive and the u.s. withdrawal in the early
1970s. he describes military objectives and domestic politics and public apparent -- opinion how it changed after the tet offensive. we will talk about nixon's victory the 1968 presidential election and how this resulted in a gradual removal of you as troops and a shift in responsibility to the south vietnamese government. this class is about an hour and 45 minutes. heroes. hey, last class, this is the second part of our vietnam class. last class we talked about the escalation and how the united states got into the ground war. how both sides escalated the conflict. today we will focus in on the tet offensive, the results, the political results and the military results. then, we will get to the nixon administration. and how we try to extricate ourselves from
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