tv Oral Histories Harry Rothmann West Point Interview Part 2 CSPAN March 11, 2018 10:00am-11:31am EDT
[applause] [applause] you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. >> u.s. military academy graduate harry rothman talks about his military experiences after the vietnam war. the candor tragedy when american soldiers, most of them from the same division, died in a plane crash in newfoundland after returning from a peacekeeping mission. harry rothmann took command of the battalion and was responsible for rebuilding it. this is the second part of a two-part interview. my first assignment back home
was with the ranger department. fort benning. i had contact, actually my second battalion commander had been a ranger camp commander in florida and when i got my rotation orders i said, i would love to go to train soldiers to be in vietnam and no better place to do that then in the ranger department, so he got me an assignment to the ranger department. >> where were you? camp: at fort benning, darby. >> how is that? harry: it was great. i could impart what i learned on these young soldiers, young lieutenants, in preparation to go to vietnam. >> what were the biggest lessons you tried to impart on them? harry: the whole idea about small unit leadership. the fact that you have got to
respect your leaders. the most important thing that will happen in combat is whether or not the squad leaders will be able to function, because where you are, you could be separated very quickly. and the real crux of the entire united states army is with the noncommissioned squad or platoon level. that is basically what i tried to get across to these people. and what a lot of them were then trying to learn were the basic individual techniques, but of course at darby, that is because that is what it was supposed to be like, it wasn't until the latter part that you began to form the platoons and so forth. whatever i could do, i tried to do that. the regular tactics and techniques you learned, we try to impart them upon these young soldiers. because all the instructors then
were vietnam veterans. >> ok, how long did you stay at that fort? harry: i left the ranger department because they sent me to advanced officer basic school. >> also at benning? harry: yes, which was interesting because there is nothing being taught about vietnam, which when i went to the officer basic course, nothing was taught about vietnam. like i said, the only experience i had that prepared me for vietnam was ranger school, other than what i got to read in infantry magazine about some of the things there. anyway, from infantry officer basic course, i went out to fort lewis, which then had a basic training course. it was assigned as a training officer for the first training brigade out of fort lewis. >> ok, so you commanded a basic training unit? harry: no, i was the training officer.
not the brigade, an assistant brigade s3 for training. but that only lasted for like three months, because they were reactivating the ninth infantry division as part of the volunteer army. >> so we've transitioned to the volunteer army. harry: we have not transitioned, we are just starting the transition, so that was an interesting experience because i had, in the ninth division, i very fortunately got to have the first rifle company formed as part of the ninth infantry division, as part of the volunteer army system. and this was before the army institutionalized how it was going to handle this whole thing. >> what year was this? harry: 1972. >> ok. and the army, when it
first started to get the volunteer army, what it did was it started with what they called unit of choice recruiting, it was a throwback if you are a , history buff, to what the prussian army did -- crying out loud -- so what the local army did. you recruited locally and you were in a local area, you got -- somehow you got to know the local population and recruited that way. i do not think they got lessons from the way that the prussian army did it, but this basically was you go out in the local area, and for us the local area as far as i knew was the state of washington and oregon, and parts of northern california. and so the division established its own recruiting unit.
and i had, at the same time, we began to organize and reactivate the division itself and that -- and i happen to get the urge rifle company to reorganize under the volunteer army. >> what company? harry: second bravo, second of the 39th infantry. i believe. >> ok. what was that like standing above the company in a brand-new, or i guess he resurrected division? harry: it was a phenomenal experience. in many different ways. first of all, we had to transition from a conscript force to an all volunteer force. and the nature of the soldiers that you would be getting was much different. in vietnam, we had -- and prior -- we had a 50/50 split. 50 that was drafted and 50 volunteered. volunteers because they wanted
to control when they would be drafted or not. about a 50/50 split. here nothing is conscripted and all volunteers. and how is the army going to get these volunteers in the 1970's when everything was anti-military, anti-vietnam, and so on. this is still in the war was going on of course. so there was a recruiting problem, to say the least. and so the first thing i had to worry about, before i get to the recruits themselves, are the leaders, because we wanted to set up a provisional company. so how you got your leaders and where you got them from. i was the first to go through all of this, so when you are first in the boat there is a big advantage, because you have got a lot of support behind you. nobody wants you to fail. so they are going to give you whatever you say you need. i said, the very first thing as
i need ia to interview everybody who comes down to be part of my unit. when do the commanders get to do that? when does a division commander get to do that these days? i got to interview all the leaders, the officers and commissioned officers that became part of the company, so that was a great thing. and they were all combat veterans. that is five vietnam. had been at one point in time these old instant nco's, but now we are into their fifth year, si year, so they had learned combat and every thing else after that. so i had a very good core of leaders, noncommissioned officers in particular. but i also got to choose my lieutenants. that was a great thing. then we got to train together before the enlisted forces came.
so we got to do tactical exercises without troops, that is we got to go out and we got to do sand table exercises, we got to go through manuals, battle drills, all by ourselves and impart on one another our standards to get ready, then we were ready, or we thought we were when the first recruits came in. unfortunately, the recruits were not necessarily ready for us. first of all, there were two significant differences that i saw it right away. the first was the criminal element, a large criminal element that you had that you had to weed out. in the early 1970's, the army did not have the administrative process to get rid of these people, so you had to deal with that and it took a lot of time. but eventually you had to get rid of that cancer as quickly as
possible. and it was a large -- if i got 100 soldiers, i would say 20 were in the criminal element. the others were of various degrees of why they wanted to come into the army, ok? at that, 80%, or at least half of them were married. that is something i had never experienced. because when i was in, when i was in europe we had maybe one out of 20 soldiers who were married and most of them were noncommissioned officers anyway, no privates were married. so how to deal with that was a major shift in how to do that. >> right. harry: then you had to find housing for them.
there was not housing on post for married come in listed people. so how do you find housing for them? and how do you prevent them from being taken advantage by people who want to take advantage of a young soldier with a married, you know, with a wife, and in some cases a small child? so those were very exciting times to learn how to stand up as a volunteer. >> a shift in the way the army was thinking, wasn't it? harry: it was entirely new for the army and other services, to various degrees. of the army was a bit different, obviously. >> did you see any problem with drugs at that time? harry: not really, we had a little bit. generally, that was within that criminal element. your drugs -- you could spot it right away, but no, there was not a lot of drugs.
anybody of course with all the leaders, i got to screen anybody. and even during the worst of the years in the army in vietnam, 69 and a 70, i did not see much drugs. in the field it was nonexistent. but in the rear areas, it was. and i got out of europe before it became a bad problem, because i left europe in early 1969 and '69, '70, '71 and '72 it got really bad. >> did you see any racial issues at that time? harry: not too many, because i had a couple of black sergeants, number one. the army was reacting to all of that. the racial issues in the army that were endemic been, again, most of that happened in the it vietnam in the rear echelon units, and a lot of it in germany in the units then.
stateside where i was in the ninth division, not a lot and a lot of it was because with the choice recruiting we were recruiting in the washington area, and oregon, and we did not recruit a lot of blacks from that particular area. i had noncommissioned officers who were blacks, but they were not a lot of black soldiers enlisted. >> ok, how was your time in command of bravo company? harry: it was fantastic, too short. >> how long? harry: it was an exciting time, besides being challenging, because general westmoreland, when he became chief of staff, he decided along with a volunteer army that he was going to, to his credit, he would revamp the way that the army trained. >> right. harry: a lot of literature that follows the army, how it
developed, it focuses on the latter part of that period, but one of the first things general westmoreland did was he threw out the training regulations, which for the army back in the 1960's was the army subject schedule. what it was was a checklist, in a subject schedule. do this and check it. what you did was you it and that checked was all. you could do it in a classroom. if it was the old machine gun, you went to a classroom and you assembled it. if it was fire weapon once a year, you go out and fire with a -- once a year whatever. , you have your sharpshooter and all of that. and if you have infantry tactics, then you went out and you did infantry, whatever that meant. ok? it could mean many different things to many different people. well, general westmoreland threw
all of that out and they were experimenting with how we were going to train and i am not sure how it originated, but it was this idea that we do not train to time. what you do is train to the subject and you have to derive standards for training. and when they told me that, i say they, that is division headquarters talking about this and since i had the first rifle company, i decided since i only had my leaders, we sat down and we derived our own training plans, what tasks, what we were going to do, how we were going to do it, to what standard, so on and so forth. that was an exciting time, you were making it up as he went -- as you went along. it was fantastic. it was not just me doing it, everybody was doing it. i had a bunch of noncommissioned officers, over sand tables, saying this is how we are going to do it, this is how we are going to train. so on and so forth.
of course, not of course, but we did ait in units before we went into the unit training. we made all of it up. so yeah, it was phenomenal. fantastic. i had the first company, so i had all the resources, all the training ranges, all the ammunition, all the equipment. >> and all the other company commanders were probably looking at you to see what -- harry: yeah, we did have, in that sense the battalion commander would have everybody together and we would share all of these lessons learned. >> so probably some of the lessons learned that you are not vietnam, now the army -- harry: very much so. that is one thing that occurred and the army changed dramatically as a result of this training revolution. not just when we first started down that road and began to institutionalize the army training and evaluation plans,
the training centers, when i became a battalion commander every battalion commander used to get together and share training ideas and everything else from one another. so the training revolution that occurred in the late 1970's, within the army, and really kicked in in the 1980's was a phenomenal thing to go through and watch and participate in. >> after you left command, where did you go? harry: i came -- i went to graduate school, well, after i left command i became the -- camp for the commanding general of the ninth division. >> who is that? harry: major william b fulton. world war ii veteran. .ough in italy alongside dole won the distinguished service
cross in italy. the non-, commanded the river force. >> ok. mentor is word overused, i believe, but it is certainly a phrase i would use. he was my military father. >> right. ll of aum, he was one he soldier and i did not want to be his aid to camp. [laughter] i was told to report to general fulton and he said, you know why you are here? and i said yes, sir. i do not want to be your aid to camp. he said, why? i said i am not fit. i cannot see myself opening doors and bringing you coffee. [laughter] myself, know, i said to when the what have you done, harry?
but he turned to me, seriously, did not even laugh at that, he said i look at my aid has been apprentice andan i brought you here because you had your first rifle company, you would did the experience of the new volunteers and so forth, and i need your help. i need that. in return, you will see how i operate. what hisld me about vision was for the division and everything else. he was true to his word, i learned more in that four or five months than i could have ever learned throughout the entire army in any other way. >> that is a neat way to sell you the idea of being his aid to camp. harry: he had to. and he lived up to it. that is exactly what he did. we had a very good relationship,
very good relationship. >> how long were you the aid? harry: four or five months i think it was. i volunteered to come back, i wanted to come back to west point to teach because i love teaching. and i decided i wanted to teach history. >> when you graduated, you did not have majors? harry: no. we had four electives in my four years. >> what did you take? harry: all english electives to escape mathematics. and engineering and everything else. >> where did you go to grad school? harry: university of north carolina. several, actually the history department at that particular time sort of had an in, so to speak. this is the 1970's, so the
atmosphere around universities was not conducive to the military as well. but the history department had a great relationship, evidently, with several universities, because of some of the professors who were there other universities and a couple of the ones were the university of north carolina and duke, that area had -- duke had the theodore -- and a great military history course. and the university of north carolina had a couple of ex- professors out of the history department. who was abotham, visiting professor here at one point. jim lucy who studied under lego heart -- lidell hart. so those areas had a phenomenal professors and because they were
in their and it was not like being in the northeast, the atmosphere was -- amongst the faculty, was much more conducive to military students and is so on and so forth. the university of north carolina is where i went to graduate school. >> what did you focus on? harry: i was to be -- my general -- the way it was, my conversation was with the head of the department, colonel expressed ithat i would love to come back and teach military history, that is why i came into the army, i studied military history and is so on and so forth. he said, this is the way i would like it to happen. the university does not have, dueke does, but the university of north carolina does not have
a military history course per se, but he told me he was there and everything else, he said, what i would like you to do is teach european history first, europeanhat was -- the and american was at the university of north carolina, and when you come, if you want to teach military history we will transition you. i said, that is good enough for me. so that is what happened. so my main thing was european history, minor in american, and most of that was from people like higginbotham and sam wells, who was a very famous diplomatic historian at the time. closely associated with the military. so that is why i went to the university of north carolina. >> what year did you attend? summer of4-1976, 1974-summer of 1976.
>> did the other graduate students know that you were military? harry: umm. [deep sigh] yes, i would say so. the other grad students, i had to take a bunch of other undergraduate courses to get up to snuff. they were mixed, undergraduate and graduate, but for people going into a specialty for getting a doctorate in history, you had to meet certain prerequisites regarding undergraduate study and i did not meet them, so i had to take those courses. i suspect they only saw me as some old man sitting in the corner and did not care one way or less. the professors were in tune with the fact i was military and a bunch of them were favorable, but i had a number of professors who are anti-military at the time. but when i got into the
graduate reading courses, of course, because you are a small group of people in do have to know one another. -- there were people there i went to school at the university with another guy coming back to the history department, and there were a bunch of military people in the triangle area of north carolina state, north carolina and duke, that returned to west point, either in history, in english and matter of fact, so we got to know one another as well. >> when he returned to west point, how was that? harry: fabulous. it was great. west point was a great place to be stationed. we had two kids by that time, our oldest was about 8. my youngest was now 4. >> ok.
harry: we got quarters then, which were considered to be -- they were the newest quarters. so it was a great assignment. phenomenal for the family and great for you, and the history department was fantastic. it turned out to be a lot better than i thought it was going to be, although i did not know what to expect when i came back. as a cadet you think every thing is kind of like this, it is writ, wrote, and as an subject,r, this is the go ahead and teach it the way that you want to teach it as long as you take these objectives, we do not care. the atmosphere was fantastic. >> who are the instructors you remember working with? harry: let me see.
had -- i'm trying to think about european history in particular, but for some reason the military history is what i remember more. you may recognize some of these names, maybe not, but casey broward, who became a reagan military aid. academia was in afterwards for some time. becameen the -- who another reagan military aid, who ended up becoming the president of army war college. people you have interviewed, skip base of its -- who teaches in the boston area. kates was a colleague of
mine. -- was a classmate of mine. >> how was it for the family? harry: fantastic. the kids loved it. the activities, as you know you are stationed here, the activities are great. down in newily is jersey and my family is in new york, so we got to see them. we had never, because we had been in europe and across in fort lewis, washington. , we had not seen much of them so that was fantastic. we had fantastic get-togethers, we took buses to new york to watch at the place. it was -- plays. it was the best assignment i had had outside of troops. >> after west point, where did you go? harry: i went, i was up for leavenworth.
my mom was sick at the time, so i asked if the kernel could placeget me, the only that was close by in new york was a naval college, and they did have a junior and senior course so i ended up there. whatever the kernel did, it helped get me to that college. so i went there for a year. >> any of your students from west point that really stood out to you? from your time when you are teaching here? they did at the time. i did not run across any that i can remember, maybe one or two i could remember when i was in the pentagon later, i ran across one or twtwo. >> after the naval war college,
where did you go? harry: back to the 101 first air division. >> first time i campbell. harry: yep. s1.s assigned there as dawkins had a brigade in the 101st. >> the third brigade? harry: correct, but that was short-lived. after he left, colonel hardy, who had been a tactical officer , he tooks teaching, he over the brigade and i became the brigade operations officer. aerosolt was an division, as it had been for the later part of vietnam. this was an exciting time.
it was my first time back into a unit, in the 80's now. 79 is when i got there, summer 79. i became the brigade operations officer in 1980 and we were just beginning to field the black hawk and the apache. minute,ktrack for a going back to the volunteer army in 72, 73, the training system is beginning to change, we are getting new people in and by the later part of the 70's we have begun to solidify things like doctrine, national training centers. the idea of it was beginning to establish. the reagan years were just kicking in, in the early 80's, the army is beginning to get money. we are beginning to get to get things like, not for me, but for
units, the abrams, the bradley, the black hawk, the apache. we are getting money to train to set up training centers and everything else. that's what it turned out to be, beginning to get like that in the early 80's, when i joined the 101st again. it like to phase out the dewey and bring in the blackhawks? harry: like night and day. speed, access, capability was phenomenal. we were then beginning to get in a first generation of night vision goggles. the tactics were ahead of the technology at the time. whoad a division commander was a brilliant man and he began to devise, along with the other brigade commanders, their own -- the army had not yet put together and aerosol manual. the army had forgotten
everything about air mobility and so forth, because it purged it from itself in the transition. here we are, and air assault division from vietnam, gleaning the lessons learned and so forth, rebuilding the aerosol concept. we had the capability, now, to do that. with the black hawk, with the night vision goggles, but they were all in their infancy. first generation. me,as a phenomenal time for as an operations officer, to see all of this coming together. >> ok. how long did you remain operations officer? until i left, in 1980, let's see, 1982. summer of 82 was when i left. i went to the pentagon. to the war plans division.
>> did you enjoy your pentagon experience? at first, but i did because of the division i went to. the eisenhower division from world war ii. it was a great bunch of officers there. the job that i had was a sort of follow on to what i had. when i was a brigade operations officer, we began the transition , for thewar planning war plans against afghanistan that occurred in 79, we got a mission in the army to defend iran from an invasion of the soviet union through the whole central command area. that was evolving. as a brigade operations officer,
i got involved with some of the early, but they called the rapid joint deployment force for, for, for the. -- the area. i got to get involved in that as a officer. now i'm in the army war plans division and looking at all of the plans from the commander in chief of central command, what the plans were. it was extraordinarily fascinating. the war in central europe. i got, as one of the four officers in the war plans division, i saw all the war plans, the contingency plans worldwide. that was a lot of work. >> did you work on any in particular that you recall? harry: i became, i worked on all of them, there were only three of us, but my expertise came to while,pean plans after a
because then i shifted into what became the nato war plans desk, where we specifically worked the reinforcement plans in the area. that became my expertise after i first got there. >> how long did you remain at the pentagon? harry: until i got picked up by the command list. that was 82 to 85. i left there in the summer of 85. >> you went back to fort camden? harry: to take over a battalion. >> when you got back to campbell, where did you work? they: because i came on to battalion command list, i was slotted to take over the infantry in the second brigade. that command would not, available until the summer of the next year or tear. so, i took over as a brigade
executive officer of the second brigade. >> who did you work for? harry: colonel john hair length. majorvision commander was general burton patrick. i met general patrick. he was at the pentagon the same time i was. when he found out that i was going to take over battalion, we had lunch together and he said -- when i get to campbell, look them up. i got there on a sunday afternoon, i told my wife this in she said -- well, go look them up. division commander, he lives in a big white house. said come on, drive up there, he told you to look them up. you know how wives are, sometimes. i knocked on the door and he answered. and he recognized me.
so, in the transition, he put me in the vip guest quarters, right next to the commanding general's , untiluntil i took over i got quarters. >> ok, all right. around this time, one of the battalions coming back from accident.a tragic the gander incident. could you tell me a bit about that? yes. the division participated in what was now called the multinational force observer. as a result of the camp david accords, i believe president carter signed them and the u.s. agreed as a part of it to establish a series of truce lines. a separation line between the egyptians and the israelis in the desert, and that mission was called the multinational force and observer.
thelieve that the 82nd, 101st, i don't remember what other u.s. army units participated, but it was fairly in its infancy. this was in 1985 when i got there in the summer. , the thirdion battalion of the 502nd infantry had deployed to the sinai that winter, i guess it was. it was just before i got there. it was a six-month tour of duty. we were to detach from the rest of the brigade. we were due to come back in three increments, beginning in the early part of december, the middle of december, and the end of december. as a brigade executive officer, the commander put me in charge of the reception, overseeing how the unit would be received back and then get back into a training program and so on and
so forth. that was my duty from him. the first increment the came in came in right after the first of december, sometime like in there. and then everything was great. i came in, we received them in the army jim, where they came in and met the family and every thing else. they immediately went off on some sort of leave. then they came back and, you know, it was just before christmas. we didn't do much with them. that was about a third of that battalion. they were coming back in increments of 240, 230, about like that. the second increment was due to come in i think on the 12th of december. same thing, same place, same drills. but then a third after that. and then about 3:00 in the morning i got a phone call, the
day they were supposed to arrive. said -- serve, i just heard over the television, i don't know how they got this, we were all getting up early in those days, but 3:00 in the morning? i just heard over the television a report that a unit had gone down in gander -- a military unit. i said, ok, what does that really mean? what unit would that have been? they weren't supposed to come through gander, originally. they were supposed to go from cairo to frankfurt and from frankfurt into fort campbell. somehow or other that got changed and the interim stop was going to be in gander. anyway, turned out that the airplane was that second contingent. and, immediately, of course, we all got alerted.
mobilized to send people to the crash site and begin the preparation, because people -- they were, at 6:00 in the morning, already beginning to show up at the gymnasium where they were supposed to come. >> all the family members? harry: the family members had not even heard. just hours before they had received a phone call from gander that their loved ones are coming home. so, anyway, i get picked up by the brigade commander and he says -- boy. we start talking in route. we went to the division headquarters and began to make plans on how to do this. thank goodness it wasn't on my shoulders to make the announcement, as colonel herling had to. all the family members had already begun to gather at the
separately, to try to handle all of what was going to happen there. what was happening and what was going to happen. like i said, the division, somehow or other everything turned out to be kind of the right thing to do. all the chaplains were there. a lot of the wives, who didn't have people on the aircraft. soldiers on the first increment showed up. there was a lot of comfort giving, as much as you possibly could, at that gymnasium that morning. anyway, the whole planeload of , 248 soldiers and six crew members hide in the crash. >> that must have been a terrible thing to deal with at campbell. >> it was -- harry: it was
horrific. i don't think the 101st in combat had lost 200 sold -- 248 soldiers in one day. even in normandy. i mean, killed outright. when i was in combat, i didn't see the families of the people that were killed. that was an horrific experience. guts and a lotf from oureadership division commander and brigade commander in particular. >> you ended up stepping into command? fact, in ther of car, on the way to the division headquarters that morning, the colonel said -- you know, jeff was on that flight. i said i knew he was supposed to be and obviously -- he says, well, you know what that means. i said yeah, i figure that out as soon as i heard everything had gone down.
you won't -- you will want someone to take over and it will be me. >> what was it like stepping into that job? >> i can't say that i relished it, that's for sure. it was such a horrific thing and we were all suffering so much. i didn't know anyone personally on the airplane. but it was such a shock for everyone. but my job was to reform the unit. so, what i wanted to do was not take over until after the christmas holidays. , which turned out to be a dumb one, i guess, was to start everything anew after the first of the year. well, the division commander wisely said no, it's got to be right now. you can't wait.
those survivors coming back are going to be in such great remorse. the ones that are already here? they've got to have a chain of .ommand in position now, we had the executive officers, but the commander, the command sergeant major, two of the company commanders were killed. there was a fairly significant leadership problem in the outfit as a result of deaths, as much as you can imagine. anyway, they said ok, you're going to take over. the best thing i could do was to determine how best to formulate the reform. but, in discussing with my that ifs, we all agreed you are going to make that work, you've got to make taking care of the families first.
so, that's where we embroiled ourselves. my wife, god lesser, got involved. -- god bless her, got involved. with fact. your wife started helping out with the families? harry: all the wives did. the wives that were there from the unit, everyone, you know, just came and tried to help all of the survivors, help their and everything. it was a tremendous effort from the entire division. not just talking about soldiers, talking about the division family that came together. this was prior to family support groups and everything else that the army has now embedded in
its, and it's, in its structure. general patrick, the division commander, went out of his way, all the way up to the chief of staff in the army, to get things like -- well, the widows had to move out of their quarters. displaced because of the regulations. bureaucracies were saying these kinds of things. you had the commanders and physicians doing what they should be doing, that is making exceptions to the rules where they apply, going to bat for how to change them and making their voices heard all the way up. that was a phenomenal thing to experience and see happen. the wave of the division handle this, from the top down, was a phenomenal thing to have experienced.
taking care of the families, putting together the ceremonies, signing, regardless of the costs that knewof the unit this soldiers going to the pallbearers.ing as as honor guard. to go and talk to the family. the mom, the father, about what the sun was like in the sinai. that sort of effort was absolutely phenomenal. >> the magnitude of it must've made it extremely difficult. harry: definitely. i don't know how many of them were married, but i, icom, in i, inattalion itself -- the battalion itself, if i recall correctly, the figure i saw was that 80% of the soldiers
who perished in the right -- flight were married. 60% to 70%, as i recall, had children. this was a phenomenal thing that happened. i pass it up not be on the division but to the entire army. general lick of him, the chief of staff of the time, went out of his way to change rules to make things happen. president reagan came days after survivors,nd had the not all of them, but as many as we could possibly get into the hangar where he gave a speech, gave a very poignant set of remarks. went into thee audience and embraced everyone that was there. it was a phenomenal experience. one of those things that just happened to be done right because you have the right and they did it in
accordance with what was right to do and not what the rules and regulations stipulated. >> it's good that sometimes common sense takes over. harry: exactly. >> how did the rest of your command feel after that? harry: very challenged. at the rebuilding unit, now, the description i gave to you in terms of the human side, in terms of caring for those left behind, there was a very similar support for rebuilding the unit. department of the army, in all of its wisdom, stipulated that this is the wit that's the way the unit should be rebuilt. at the time, the army was going to this experiment called cohort , where you would replace units with other units instead of by individual replacements, and so on and so forth. so, because i had lost units, or
the battalion had lost units, in thes, headquarters section here, all of the alpha company, so on so forth, they wanted to replace those with units. i was dead set against it. why. to go explain i determined that the defining moment of the experience of this particular battalion had been the sinai mission. one third of that, of the men who went and served there are no gone. two thirds of them are still thinking about those men that they either knew directly or indirectly. and of the sinai. i didn't want to have a couple of new units, companies, platoons, to come into this and be seen as a part of that experience.
so, my argument was -- i want to take squads out of the other existing companies and put them into alpha company. and i want to rebuild the squad up through the battalion. the counter argument to that was -- if you are not going to be combat effective as quickly, you will have one third of your rifle strength at what it would have been if one had come in and recovered quickly, but now you will have the entire battalion on its asked. i said we aren't going into combat tomorrow. and that if you want a cohesive fighting unit six months from now -- i said i would guarantee you it in six months, you put us through the most rigid xl that you can and i said that if we abuild this way, we will have unit that will be able to be in six months ready to go wherever you want. so, i got that.
i got more than that, actually. i got to pick and choose all of my leaders to replace the ones i lost. , somehow or other general patrick decided -- i did -- i sold him -- i didn't have to sell him, i said we are an -- air assault , which had been as much of a merit badge experience as the parachute or badge. replacementsof the that have already been aerosol qualified. that had to come out of the other brigades. as well as leaders coming out of those brigades. i didn't think that that was going to fly, but general patrick agreed to it and the other brigade commanders supported it. so, here i am, trying to rebuild
. i've got all of these aerosol qualified. i just had to deal with the new more than at were unit would normally get. i was getting about 25%. so, all of that happened, fantastic. much like i had when i was at fort lilith, they gave me priorities on the training ranges for the entire division. i got priorities for retraining. it was a phenomenal experience, for me. it was a great experience. it had all worked well, but it divisionse we had this wide effort to rebuild the battalion. >> after you left battalion command, where did you go? harry: i was slated to come out on the war college list.
, my wife and i had decided that we were trying to protect our children as they grew up in the army, what we wanted to do was at least get our children through the same high school, at the junior and senior level. we were able to do that with our oldest. sophomoret, who was a at the fort campbell high year., we left the next righthad timed everything and i have gone for another two year assignment somewhere, it would have put our middle son in junior and senior year at the same high school. that's what i was shooting for and i was wondering how i could do that.
the army at that time had fellowships. in lieu of going to the college itself, you could become a fellow at the state department, if you were chosen to be, so on and so forth. i was given a list that that might be available. low and behold, one of them was a fellow at the naval war college, where i had already been. the fellow there would have gone through the senior course and stayed on as an instructor. since i had been there, i decided, why not shoot for that? it would give us, our middle son, a junior and senior year at the same high school. the problem was that the division commander wanted me to take over number three. which meant i would have stayed on campbell another year and then left and then we would have split that. dilemma was a career for me.
but our kids were old enough, my wife had been through a lot. she knew what had happened in the gander with everything else, so we decided that between the two of us we would go on and take the fellowship. sort of a long exhalation, but i went on to the naval war college in 1988 and to what they call the senior course there, comparable to the army war college. from eight to 89. i spent another year with a twofold mission, to be an instructor and to work on special projects for the chief of staff of the army. i did both of those things for my last year in the fellowship. >> what was your special project? 1989, what was happening then? what was going on with the soviet union?
general sullivan, the deputy chief of staff of operations, was putting together a special group of officers to study the future of the army. the big question was -- what if the soviet union goes away. what will that mean to the united states army of the future. in general terms, it would unravel our major enemy, now, since 1946, 7, 8, so on and so forth, having gone away. what pressures would be -- what with the army he called upon to do? what could it say it could do? what were the traditional things? if it goes away, if the threat goes away, what does it mean for its force structure? for what we have in europe? many questions
posed on this. i was one of the guys was going to be a member of the group. member of thea source outside of this small group of officers that were working on a and funded me. i got to travel to the major army headquarters throughout the world try to ask the generals what they thought was going to happen, and so on and so forth. i did that for six months and then put together a study and presented its general sullivan. he thought i was crazy. [laughter] >> all right. >> i can't say i predicted, but number one, the most obvious thing is going to be coming home from europe or that threat generally exist. at the time they were arguing that in order to maintain presence and have a voice in nato and everything else, we
must maintain an army of such and such a force. i don't think that anybody is going to do that and i've been studying some futuristic paper is that kissinger had put together. there was a lot of that stuff coming out, he didn't just start in 1989. things were unraveling for the soviet union mid 80's onward. so i was beginning to read all of this stuff and try to get a sense -- particularly with some of the congressional studies that were already in the works behind the scenes, so to speak. i got a feel for that and said this will not work. you are not going to be able to maintain the army in europe above this particular level. thathen i went and said ,ased upon historic drawdown and where we would have to
maintain, regardless, i said that our force presence is going to be drastically reduced. i then decided to put together what would look like a force structure to do the kind of things that futurists were saying would have to be done, with most of it coming out of the united states with very little foreign presence. that's what all of the predictability and that was going to be. the bottom line on all of this, i think i came in and said the army of 10 divisions with 500,000 active duty with missions of this, that, and the other thing and everything else, it was not politically palatable at the time. but it was a great study to have gone through and a good experience. got to meet a lot of senior officers. >> where did you go after the naval war pilot? -- who man,: i went
that's right. i was supposed to go to panama, because i had been overseas in a while. -- i hadn't been overseas in a while, i want to get it over with. my name, because i just graduated from the senior-level college, they would rotate me. i don't know if they still do that, but they rotate these names among the general officer list in the army and it was the general officer on the joint staff that i've served with when i was in the army staff the all my name and decided i should come back to the pentagon again, which i tried not to do, but i was unsuccessful in doing that. so i came back to the pentagon l. a kernel -- colone >> what did you do while you were there? mr. rothmann: i was in the strategy division of j five and this was an interesting contrast. a very interesting experience to
go from what the army staff in pre-goldwater nichols in 83, 84, leaving 85 with goldwater nichols being 86, and then coming back four years later on the joint staff, because when i was in the army staff, the joint staff was the staff for all the chiefs. any decisions that the chiefs made were all the minimal decision as to what wouldn't hurt our service is the services the most. toward jointared war fighting or whatever. it was basically, the decisions were all compromises. now the joint staff that i joined was a much better staff. these were people who were the theof the crop in many of services now because goldwater nichols had demanded that everybody had to have a joint, with this was shortly thereafter
nels wereot of colo trying to get into the queue where you would be eligible for something in the future, and the joint staff was much different. staff of the a chairman, who is now the primary military advisor to the president. so the chiefs were sort of a collegial kind of group, the chairman had a lead, and how he used the chiefs was really up to him. so goldwater nichols had changed that, staff wise, fairly significantly. chairman'sanced the power so much that he was the true -- if he chose executed, was a true primary member of the national security staff of the president of the united states. and colin powell, who was the chairman, had the wherewithal to exercise that power. know, the you may
national security adviser, he had been in military aid to secretary of defense weinberger, he had served on the budget he --tee somewhere, so and he had been a force tom commander for the army. he was probably one of the ideal people to be in that position. betweenthing a change my previous experience at the pentagon and what i was going to go through here. and then the other major thing was i got to the pentagon two days after saddam hussein invaded kuwait. >> ok. mr. rothmann: my immediate reaction to that was i called brands to see how i could get back into -- back in the field. the answer was, look, we have ls just likeolone you who are making that request. you are staying where you are.
the position i walked into that i really didn't know i was going to be there was i guess the reason why was chosen by the general officer, which was deputy j five at the time, was to help colin powell devise a military strategy, not for the future, all of the soviet union -- how are we going to revamp our national military strategy and the national security threat , but that's what i was supposed to come in to do. and i still was going to end up doing that, but there was this thing called as a shield and desert storm that i got involved in for the chairman. because of my war planning experience in the past, i was sort of chosen to be a senior planner for general powell in putting together from the washington perspective, how can we put together -- what do we want to do in this crisis in the gulf, and what kind of guidance to we want to give to the centcom commander, how we want
this conflict to turn out, and how do we want to input to what the national objectives are going to be for this war, this conflict that may come out? we didn't know it was going to be a war yet. but that was an extraordinary experience. >> over the largest challenges you face as you begin the plan is -- the planning process? mr. rothmann: bureaucratic. everybody in the pentagon -- have you had an assignment in the pentagon? everyone in the pentagon was vying for something to say about this. and there was a lot to be said about it that was beyond just the military strategy about it. there were a lot of books associated with it, a lot of future programs that were involved. those kinds of things that unfortunately is a drive, and the program world and the pentagon world, for which it exists, really. the good thing about goldwater nichols is that we now have the power in a chairman who could
look beyond that. chair -- aair, a seat at the table. where something beyond the programmatic issues could be argued. that's where we went. i was fortunate enough because of my experience to be picked as one of the senior planners the got to meet with general powell a couple of other senior ls, some, mainly colone senior colonels, who said how are we going to get the best military advisement we can possibly give, despite all the bureaucratic stuff that was coming in from the cia and the state department, people in the state department, the new things of the military more than the chairman did, the normal bureaucratic politics associated with this kind of thing. and because of the expertise and heerience of general powell,
was a lead the way in so following all of that bureaucratic stuff. int was when i was involved since i got there in august until the war was over in february. >> it must've been a huge undertaking. got one day off, but i didn't complain. i wasn't out in the middle of the desert, like some of my classmates were. , that brigade of the 82nd division that landed for crying out loud in saudi arabia with 2500 soldiers facing a one million man army, i didn't have to face that. >> the famous speedbump in the sand. mr. rothmann: exactly. but if i had to be someplace iere i couldn't be there, thought i was in the right place at the right time for the experiences that i have.
>> especially for a historian to see everything from the one over the world sort of you. -- sort of view. mr. rothmann: exactly. to seal the war plans had to -- had been devised. withhe problems we had contingency plans, it evidently a lot of problems with contingency plans in the gulf war. i knew about what those things would be like. but again, this gets back and a lot of literature picks up on this. but it's true. there were a lot of experiences, all of the senior officers then and junior officers -- general officers include general powell and includes worse off, swerved classmateslude my that were leading brigades, we are all vietnam veterans. we not going to screw this up?
we now live in hindsight of how well everything went and how quickly everything went and everything else. it was not that way when we first confronted this. we were confronting a one million man army that it done pretty well against iran. general powell used to say they did pretty well against -- in some cases unarmed boys charging the trenches and the iran-iraq war. he was being a little facetious. what appeared to be an intractable situation with a lot of unknowns to include. we didn't know about the abrams in combat, we didn't know about the bradley. the black hawk had shown us certain things in grenada and panama, a lot in panama. we had not engaged in a force like that. we had this great experience at the ntc, no doubt about it, it was fantastic.
we talked about all of these and we had people in from the army war college, it was a phenomenal group of people. that we had different people pulling different ways for us that were then trying to go to general powell and say this is our best thinking about it, this is what we can best derived from all of this. ell of and experience. we were very fortunate in this country to have a man like general colin powell as chairman at that time. after you have -- what did you do after your barragán experience? -- your pentagon experience? mr. rothmann: i retired. >> in what year? mr. rothmann: excuse me, i didn't retire after the pentagon. i went to the national war college. the reason i said i retired was that i was on the medical list to be medically discharged
hips ati had two bad the time. in the pentagon, after all this was over, i couldn't get out of my chair one day and so they sent me to walter reed, i had to get an operation on both of my hips. i had to get hip replacements. i didn't think that hip replacements -- i wasn't going to survive medical discharge. , somemehow or other people i knew that i contacted and they knew in high places, i stay on active duty, i left in 1993 was the end of my joint staff tour and i went to the national war college as the chief of staff army chair of the national war college, general sullivan was the chief of staff then. and every service chief had
their own personal chair the national war college. the main thing they wanted for you to do was to assert the capabilities of each service into the deliberations of what was taught at the national war college. that was my assignment at the national war college initially. excuse me. and i took over as one of the department chairman of the department of military strategy and operations. >> how long we win that role? -- were you in that role? mr. rothmann: two years, i was there is the army chair and then two years as apartment chairman. of aat final assignment person with to have replacements replacements can have on the way out. everything i could do was to pursue something i try to keep up on my entire career, that is further study, and teach the vietnam war. i put together a course on the
vietnam war, which is not been taught in any of the service schools, at any level until now. >> by this time -- mr. rothmann: it's 1995. 1993, 1994 is where i put the course together. mr. rothmann: you are 20 years -- >> you 20 years, generation removed, from the vietnam war. since retirement, you have been involved in a couple of projects looking at the vietnam war. mr. rothmann: yes. -- a coupled became of the people i work with at the national war college, a couple ls likekernels -- colone a, they had been picked up by small defense contracting firm in new england in this defense contracting firm in new england was being contracted by the joint staff for members, whoever
had the money then, to help them rewrite things like joint doctrine in that kind of stuff. i had done a little bit of that when i had been on in the j five, helping out the j seven begin to write joint doctrine when general powell was there. they knew this and they convinced the company for the projects that were doing to hire me. that's how i kind of got involved in that sort of thing. take the job and went down to florida and started doing some projects like that. but the biggest thing that got me back into the army again was one of the people i knew what i was on joint staff came in the clinton administration, the dividend or secretary of defense for readiness. he hired a back on as a personal
assistant. , yes to goss hat everywhere around the world to make recommendations on how to maintain military readiness. that, i have to pick up on the work i've done for my vietnam course and prior work, and began to make some collections of things to put together eventually when i thought i would write on the vietnam war, which i'm doing now. >> house that progress going -- how is that progress going? mr. rothmann: very tedious. i've been working on for two half years and frankly i thought as simple as sometimes it seems, i thought i would take the course work i've done for the national war college and turn it into a book. now, thes is 2016 course i put down together was
in 1994 and it is unbelievable the amount of material and information and what's been written on the vietnam war. with all that now available, i've gotten somewhat to down in try to make it through all of the presidential tapes that are online these days. all of the papers that are part of foreign relations to the united states the can read exactly what transpired at this particular national security meeting. what occurred when general wheeler was in talking with president johnson at the time and so on. all of that is phenomenal. i've been going through that and trying to ingest all of it and trying to make sense out of it. i hope to have my first draft done in about two months. war,ll me about a better
and your thoughts about westmore abrams. mr. rothmann: it's an actually, let me tell you where i first got works, on studying his not just "a better war," but the pilot -- biography of westmoreland and abrams. he put together a bunch of transcripts of abrams meetings when he was commander there. i first really started getting involved in that with an alumni of this department, greg gaddis. kernel -- colonel confronted -- that's too harsh a word to use, engaged in a dialogue with lewis worley and rigs and because the other guy
who wrote a book called the general about what they had written about westmore lynn and their interpretation written large about the war itself and i thought it was a very good engagements, so i began to read more. books not read all of his and i have not read greg's book. i got involved in that a lot more. that as i believed, and as is written down in this book gaeta'soreland, colonel found the missing things. it was a history i think written fairly criticized as missing a lot of other things. focus on, as an historian, choosing to focus on a part of the history, a part of the record and ignoring other
parts of the record. and that's what i found. disservicehas done a to the history of the vietnam war for the serious student of it, and certainly a disservice to the people who were involved in it. -- mr. rothmann: that's a nice way of talking about the set of books. as you know, any historian, one of the values of taking a stand, and interpretation of history, events, and people, is putting a mark in the sand that other people can examine, it is done correctly and rightly. disagree, agree to disagree, or find some of it that is correct and maybe others that was omitted. we enlarged -- i've enlarged my perspective as a result of looking at his books.
>> one of my grad student advisors always used to say history is an argument among historians. mr. rothmann: definitely. an important argument that sometimes gets beyond historians. you have to be subtle enough to understand how some historian is right, what dates they pick, what they choose to focus on or omit and so on and so forth. one of the books are really involved in or have been involved in -- i don't know if you've heard of mark feuer, he's turned the historiography or has upset a lot of the historiography on the vietnam war with his first volume of his rendition of the vietnam war called "triumph forsaken." i think that's the name of his first volume. but interesting. a different viewpoint, a different perspective. need thing about the
study of history and historians. we all took a different perspective and it gives you a different light to look at. >> it has been a privilege having you in your today, and it's wonderful talking with you. thank you for coming in. mr. rothmann: thank you for the rotation. i enjoy coming back to the old haunting grounds. >> is there anything i haven't asked you that you wanted to say before we end? mr. rothmann: one thing. in doing oral histories, i think it would be a great service to the military, not just the army, to begin to focus on the experiences of the spouses, the families, so on so forth. there is so much, as you know, as we all pay lip service to writings, in terms of it down and capturing it and everything else, about what our wives to do, about what our families experience and so on and so forth.
for a young man who wants to learn more about the profession, to have some sort of source to go to, not just for him, but for he choosesnd whether to or not, and whether she can , likenot, to look at it oral history you can find online that might be able to benefit someone i think would be a great service to do for the armed forces -- the armed services. >> i agree completely. thank you for coming in. mr. rothmann: thank you, dave. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] >> part one of this can be viewed at c-span.org/history. >> monday on c-span's landmark cases, we explore the age 86 -- 1886 case where san francisco the ornaments -- city ornaments discriminate against the chinese laundry owner.
found in favor of the laundromat owner and establish that equal protection under the 14th amendment applies to immigrants as well as citizens. examine this case and the high court's ruling with a professor of asian studies in history at columbia university and author of "the lucky ones: one family in the in storage area invention of chinese america." and the founder and president of the heartland institute. watch landmark cases live monday at 9:00 eastern on c-span, c-span.org, listen with the free c-span radio app. for background on each case, where your copy of the landmark cases companion book, available for eight hours on a five cents plus shipping and handling at c-span.org/landmark cases. there's a link on our website to the national constitution center's interactive constitution.
>> in this years a studentcam competition, we asked them to choose a version of the u.s. constitution and create a video no starting white important. students competed for the chance to win cash prizes and we received 2985 entries from 46 states. the first prize winner for the high school east category goes to this pair from montgomery blair high school in silver spring, maryland, for "no trespassing: seeking justice for native women." the first class winners of the high school central county is this pair from whitefish bay high school in whitefish bay, wisconsin for "wisconsin votes count." prizechool west first goes to this pair from capital high school in boise idaho for prison reform. for the middle school east category is this trio from
eastern middle school in silver spring, maryland, or "survival of the failed face: the constitutionality of abortion." a special citation for threevity goes to this from brains and, florida, for the documentary "return of the constitution: the first amendment rap." and grand prize winners, adam cook and tyler kennedy from dallas center grimes high school in grimes, iowa, for their documentary "old enough to fight, old enough to vote." >> we received 2000 hundred 85 videos, and you guys won the grand prize. >> we get it. -- we did it. yes. >> with this year's topic it was such an open-ended question.
we really have some time to focus in and what i looked online and i got the contact whormation for the person authored the 26th amendments, i said we have to do this. we have to get in contact with this person. within some emails and started filming and we send even more emails and everything kind of fell into place. >> it was pretty difficult. 26 different amendments we looked at and evaluated and there's lots of controversy going on right now in the public, so we sat down and thought how it related to us in our age and what really affected us, we're going to college next year and the 26th amendment, there are important people here and we got working this is a good. the top 22 winning entries will air on c-span in april and you can watch every student can -- and studentcam documentary at studentcam.org.
>> our podcast, c-span's "illegally," takes you beyond the headlines to explain in depth one significant news story that is shaping the conversation in washington and around the country. you'll hear from leading journalists, policymakers, and experts providing background and context and find c-span's "the weekly," on the free c-span radio app as well as itunes, stitcher, and google play, and online anytime at c-span.org. >> each week, american artifacts takes viewers into archives, museums, and historic sites around the country. the vietnam war tet offensive started on january 30, 19 68, with viet cong and north vietnamese forces attacking more than 100 cities, towns, and outposts across a broad swath of vietnam.