tv Vietnam War Army Platoon Leaders CSPAN November 12, 2018 4:45pm-6:01pm EST
college lectures archival films and more. american history tv. on our website. next, from the virginia military institute, two u.s. army vietnam war veterans recall their experiences leading enlisted soldiers and draftees as platoon leaders. this 70-minute event is part of a conference titled the vietnam war at 50. critical reappraisals. >> we are going to jump off this afternoon, and we are going to jump from the strategic level down into the operational and tactical level. this afternoon, we have distinguished panel of vietnam veterans, each of whom was a small unit leader and was among the last of the united states military officers to lead a combination of regulars and draftees. of course, we know, since 1973,
the military services are an all-volunteer service. so what we would like to hear from our panelists today, among other topics, is the subject of leading both regulars and draftees, true citizen soldiers. so we are honored to have two panelists today who were tough veterans. first is fill giioia, vmi class of 1967, who had ten years of active service, including command of two infantry companies in combat. he earned the ranger tab, combat infantryman's path finder and master parachutist badge. he is a decorated veteran who was twice wounded. and decorated three times for valor in battle. he, after leaving the service, had a career in investment
banking, venture capital, and technology that has spanned 30 years. he's the author of many articles on military history topics. and he's appeared as a television commentator on military history and technology on the history and military channels. now we can give him a round of applause. [ applause ] our second panelist is dr. ron milam. he is an associate professor of history, a fulbright scholar to the socialist republic of vietnam, and founding faculty adviser to the veterans' association at texas tech. he is also a combat veteran. and in 2015 was inducted into the officer candidate school hall of fame at the national
infantry museum at fort bening, georgia. he's the author two of books on the war, including "not a gentleman's war: an inside crew of junior officers in the vietnam war", which speaks directly to this panel's topic. please welcome dr. milam. [ applause ] now, we had planned a third panelist to represent the united states marine corps. barrett graham, also a member of vmi class of 1967. however, due to the effects of hurricane florence and more than one tree down the top of his house and business as well as his work as a volunteer first responder for his community, barrett was unable to come. we wish him well, and his entire
community a swift recovery. again, i'll moderate the panel. and i will begin with a couple of questions. and please raise your hand and be recognized. and a microphone will come to you. let me start out with a question to both of you gentlemen. could you please spend a little bit of time and tell us why you joined the united states army in the middle of a hot war? and then tell us just a little bit about your initial training and assignments as you deployed to vietnam. and let's start with phil. >> okay. i think the army, in my family was kind of a family business. we have had someone in the u.s. army from the spanish-american war forward in every major war. we didn't get here in the civil war, guys. we got here late. 1880s, all over by then.
my father was -- served in oss, in the second world war. my father was a career officer. i was an army brad. i grew up in the army. i always wanted to lead wanted n soldiers. you live in the army as a child. it certainly wasn't the army we fought in in vietnam, coming up, and rising in age i wanted to lead soldiers, i wanted to lead history, i wanted an army commission and i did not go to west point because they had a packaged curriculum in civil engineering, and i wasn't going to sit through four years of that. so i came to vmi and i really found the right school. immediately after graduating in '67 -- by the way, we didn't get into the army in the middle of a big war. there was no knowledge -- by '67
it was a gigantic engine sucking people in from all directions. my first assignment was the 82nd airborne division. those days the army's attitude in the '60s was, you're in these little fish schools, our fish school was '67 and our group was supposed to go through training in our various branches and get some state side experience before we went to vietnam as first lieutenant. i went through airborne and ranger back to back in the summer of '67. went back to the 508th, led my platoon through several exercises, night jumps. in florida, late january and february of '68. we cancelled the exercise,
everything was in chaos. the division has been alerted to set the full brigade in vietnam. i was still a second lieutenant. i went to vietnam in the 505th parachute. we went to the icor area. we had that incident that was in ken burns. that's the runup of how and why i got to go to vietnam. >> i guess my situation couldn't be any more different. i was a graduate student at wayne state university in detroit, michigan. i had been watching this war for -- on television for a long time, and trying to figure out all the ways to avoid it. like many students that were in graduate school in the masters program in business administration, our goal was to get a good job and make a lot of
money. now, you know, i'm a college profess professor, so you obviously know i failed at one of my first goals in life. but i had a 1-a draft status, and it had been 2-s until i got into graduate school. it became 1-a very quickly. i said, i have to do something about this, i tried to get into the air force, my eyes weren't good enough. i tried to get into the navy, and my math scores weren't good enough. i ended up volunteering to go into the army. i went into the recruiting station and asked them what the options were, they said with an mba, if you end up going to vietnam, you'll be in saigon writing checks and doing logistics and things like that,
but -- so we would suggest you go into the finance corps. so i sort of signed up for that, and they told me all the neat places i would go if i was in the finance corps. then something happened in january of 1968 called theet t offensive. they called me in and said, we changed the rules now, if you want to be in the finance corps you must go to infancy ocs first. and if you graduate in the top three of your class, not 3%, but the top three, you can then choose the finance corps. for any of you that know anything about infantry ocs, probably the last thing you would choose is the finance corps. i was commissioned in the
infantry, and the ocs experience that i had was quite good. and i have actually -- when i got out of -- when i went back to school to earn my ph.d. i did research on what the officer candidate school is, and what rotc is, and what west point is in terms of commissioning, and what i found at ocs was a program that i really believe was some of the very best training that a person could have. so i served in the 82nd airborne division also. as xo of the first brigade headquarters company. got to go into operation deep furrow in turkey, made 28 jumps, i believe. enjoyed every moment of it. became someone that was very interested in trying to become the best leader that i possibly
could be in the event that i went to vietnam. i got my orders for vietnam when i was with the 82nd airborne division. and those orders included going to the mata school at ft. bragg at the john f. kennedy school. and then i went to defense language institute. to learn vietnamese language, because i was going to be an adviser. and as sometimes happens with military matters after becoming fluent in vietnamese, they sent me to a mountain yard village, where nobody spoke vote ietname. so i served my one year in a place called foon yon, midway
between plaque and bamitui t on highway 14. i had one year as an infantry adviser to the rough puffs and the people's self-defense force of plaquo province. >> can you talk a little bit about the results of your research? you did an excellent analysis of the three commissioning sources during this period and kind of share with us what the various officer asessions were doing to prepare their officers to be small unit leaders? >> typically, up until vietnam, about 70% of all commissioned officers are commissioned through the rotc programs.
at the beginning of the vietnam war there were about 160,000 rotc cadets in america. three years later, there were 40,000. our rotc programs around the country, some places actually closed. stanford, harvard, brown, they dropped their rotc programs because of the school's opposition to the war. somebody had to make up that need as we ramped up the needs for junior officers in vietnam. west point, i think they almost tripled their class size, but that would be four years before those men in those days could
become combat leaders. so officer candidate schools had to make up the difference. as i said earlier, they closed virtually all of the noncombat arms officer candidate schools. if you wanted to be in a noncombat arm, you had to go to infantry armor. so when i went back to -- when i was writing my doctoral dissertation in 2004, i started doing research. and there was a line in a report called strategic lessons learned in vietnam that essentially said there were a lot of bad junior officers, and that's what motivated me to write that particular book. i started looking at commissioning sources. and what i found was that the
army sending liaison teams to vietnam to see what officers were most ready to lead men into combat. the concession was that most likely the best officers were coming out of officer candidate school. part of that may have been because the numbers were so high. but what they were finding is that the officer candidate schools were the ones that were trying to do their best to replicate the experiences one would receive in combat. mostly through stress. six months -- i know some people talk about the 90 day wonders. it wasn't really 90 days in vietnam, it was six months. everyone who had come into officer candidate school, had already been in the army six
months. that means you had a year as an enlisted soldier by the time you got your commission and that made sense for those men to be the most capable of leading men in combat. now, there were some -- i also read in my research -- i also found a lot of zparjing remarks made about some graduates of west point that they were too arrogant. and i'm not buying that conclusion, because i served with a lot of west point branches. but what some of the -- some of my research found was, there were a lot of situations where the west point people were not quite as understanding of what they were -- of who they were leading, most of whom were -- many of whom were draftees. >> that research really pointed out, the officer candidate schools were sort of getting it right. the other thing that impressed me the most about what the army was doing in those days is even
though the need was so high for junior officers, they didn't change their desire and their goal of having ocs graduates be college graduates. and so while it would have made sense just from a standpoint of needing bodies for them to have done away with that requirement, they pretty much held close to that. in my ocs class which graduated in june of 1969, that class was 95% college graduates. and that's pretty high for an officer candidate class. >> phil, would you give us a little flavor for the unit you were commanding and leading and
what they were like? >> sure. >> i had two combat tours. you want the first one first? >> first one first. >> leading two different kinds of soldiers, on the first tour, they were all paratroopers, 82nd airborne, all well trained. the 173rd brigade of the airborne. they were very good motivated soldiers. we trained together in the states, we jumped together on exercises. i knew every one of my men. and we deployed together. they were very tight, they were part of a company, we were slaughtered into a company we had not worked with before. we went to a company because the division was cold war. the division was under strength, when they deployed the third
brigade, we had to augment it with platoons from other brigades. everyone knew the pattern, they operated extremely well together, fighting along the per view river. during that battle. i only lasted five weeks before i was wounded. with all those five weeks, my nco's looked out for me, i looked out for them. i thought we had a very tight outif the. the second tour was very different. i went to the first calvary division. everyone knows -- you think about the image of the first cav, they could lift up its infantry brigades, flying all the supplies and heavy artillery and back them up. the company was 70% draftees. my company was 75% draftees, i
had a real lack of nco's, no nco's above e-5 in my company, other than the first sergeant. we were operating as quad and platoon leaders. all of them are 75% of them had been pulled out of their lives, they had answered the country's call, they had been trained up. sent in halfway around the world as individual replacements. in an infantry company and combat all the time. they turned out to be superb soldiers. you would ask yourself, what would be the characteristics which would mill tate against an inferior type of operation? and yet they bonded together. they respected their nco leaders, even though they were very young. the junior nco's, certainly that's all i had, didn't have any real tactical competence or understanding at the company level. i ran that. they were really good.
a couple other things about them. is that we had no opportunity to train together. the turbulence of personnel in the vietnam war was extreme. every time we got resupplied which was every five or six days on air, someone was coming in or leaving. the company was under strength in the first place. we were a rifle company, supposed to be four platoons, we only had 3. and so we had three platoons. of my three platoon leaders, two were armor officers and one was an artillery officer. this is an infantry company in combat. i never understood the army's policy of assigning these 34e7b who had not had infantry training. that's how turbulent it was. nonetheless, when i took command and i took command in the field from an officer who had made some very bad tactical decisions many and one of which got two men killed, he was pulled back to -- by the way. i was wounded in april of '68
and went back to ft. bragg and was lucky enough to command a company in the 82nd airborne for 10 months. and then went back to vietnam, 10 months of command as a first lieutenant in a paratroop company behind me. and then i went to the first cav. i was sent out to be the xo since i was still the first lieutenant in april '69 and the officer who was commanding at that time had made a couple bad decisions. the battalion commander pulled them up to battalion headquarters, still a first lieutenant. i got the company together on the fire base, i said to them, look, that's then, this is now. if you follow what i tell you, and your nco's are going to listen to me most of you are going to go home alive.
if you slack off on the north vietnamese army, they're going to take advantage of you. we're going to have light and noise discipline in the few days we're back here, we put them through an accelerated little tactical training, then we went back out on a combat assault, they were like a new company. for the next 10 months. they were great soldiers in the field. six months, i'm sorry on that one. it was a real challenge. because we had -- they were draftees, you would think these people would have attitude problems, they weren't. they bonded together. that unit still has reunions every year. they're mostly from the south and midwest. so somewhere in that area every year they get together and tell lies and war stories about how we were all together in vietnam. the radio sign in that company was foggy day. which i think is ironic since i now live in san francisco.
they were great soldiers, i have said over and over again, given the two types of units, the ones that really performed above my expectations were the draftees in the first air calvary division. that's the difference between the two units. >> can you tell us a little bit about -- can you give us a flavor for the difficulties of walking in and being an american who now doesn't -- can't speak with them, because they're not here. can you give us a little flavor for that experience. >> you went to vietnam in 1970. i went there in june of 1973. you went to arepo depot. they replaced soldiers, officers, and you started hearing rumors about why you were going to a particular place, and the central highlands at that time -- a lot had been
going on, the fourth infantry division was there, and they were going home. so we knew if you went to plaquo province, you were going to be one of just a few americans. there would be no more americans in that province. everything you did would be with your advisees, with your -- in my case, mountain yard troops. the first day that i got there, i asked to see my troops. and my troops formed up, they were wearing loin cloths and they were carrying their weapons. this is it 1970. browning automatic rifles. stevens single shot shotguns and one carbines. and the .45 caliber thompson
submachine gun. that was the weapons of my troops. i'll tell you what, a dry soldier with a thompson submachine gun, give him two tracers and he will shoot that bird out of the sky. at least with the second tracer. i thought, wow! these are some dedicated soldiers. these are soldiers who -- and i'm still not sure why. and this is my next book. why they loved the americans as much as they did. they weren't real fond of vietnamese. either the enemy ones or their allies. and that's a subject for an throw positionists to deal with, i guess. but the responsibilities that i felt with a mobil advisory team.
i was mobil advisory team leader with a heavy weapons nco. a light weapons nco a medic and another lieutenant. that was the team of five. going out into the villages, setting up -- teaching to set up night ambushes, that sort of thing, with these people's self-defense forces, most of whom were over the age of 50. the responsibility that i felt as a leader of that group was to understand first of all why it is that they are having to deal with a war for which they really probably don't care very much about who wins. as long as the fighting stops. that was the best -- the greatest challenge that i had. and when it was all over, when i left after a year, i sort of had the feeling, and we had some --
maybe we'll come up later, our compound was overrun and we lost a lot of people. when it was all over. i sort of felt like maybe i hoped that we had taught a few things that would help keep many of those families, particularly the young children, that would have helped keep them alive through the end of the war. if you remember the vietnam history, it was the central highlands where the north vietnamese and the hochimin campaign came down the trail and turned into a town called the bamituit. after that fell, then goal of getting to saigon became much easier. but being an adviser in a war
where the people that you're advising feel like they're being -- they're being worked at very hard by both sides, was very difficult. very difficult. phil, you face many challenges in both of your combat tours. what is the one or two biggest challenges you faced as a commander in battle. >> i'll preface the answer to that by saying, i was told by lieutenant colonel at one point, he was not my battalion commander. one was a west pointer and the other was an rotc grad. this officer told me it's not good to be too concerned about soldiers. i didn't understand what he was talking about. he had not ever commanded in combat, he was from a class -- i
think it was 55 or 56. and had not commanded soldiers in combat, and i thought, i'll take that under advisement. but the biggest challenge i had, i think, was -- i'll tell you what the operational environment we had was first. we were in the north, operating in triple canopy rainforest or rubber plant plantations. miles and miles and miles of them. our mission, and we were very much -- you heard those lectures about search and destroy, that was our job, our job was to find the north vietnamese. regular army, 272nd, 273rd regiments were operating against us in our area. their job was to go all the way down to hochimin trail. i give them credit for doing that. once they got into cambodia, we
would rest up. and then at the appropriate moment, they would come over the border and into these bunker complexes in north and south vietnam on our side of the border, and then they'd rest up and refit, and then they would move against american fire bases. you ask yourself what the mission was, it wasn't to integrate themselves into the towns and cities, that was the front. that was the vc. the north vietnamese were to come over and focus on our instillations to kill as many americans as we could. and they dictated the tempo of that engagement. our job was to find them first and kill them or capture them. fix them in place, use our artillery and air support. fight them on the ground as was mostly the case. >> so operating in this very thick jungle on the boarder, we were basically bait for these north vietnamese units. i knew that, my men knew that, i
think i was understanding what our lieutenant colonel was saying, you're going to lose people when you follow the mission order. and what was happening in that area. these bunker complexes the enemy built was very strong. the firing ports were right at ground level. they were thickly camouflaged, had heavy overhead cover. we captured a man field to break these bunkers open. they were so well coordinated, that if your point group got into one of these bunker complexes, they'd be shot down, pinned down and you would have to maneuver against them. we had to move slowly in order to not blunder it at one of these bunker complexes by mistake. that's what he was talking about, i was moving slowly, the brigade knew, the battalion knew it, i was a man on the ground, i wasn't moving faster than they wanted to. they sent a couple radio messages, can you pick it up?
with the tactical situation as it is, i can't move any faster than they're moving. they respected that. the biggest concern i had was losing men to no good purpose by being bold or moving too fast. in my entire command over those six months, i had that company, i lost four men. we killed a lot of north vietnamese. i only lost four men. i think i did my job, because we operated against a very -- by the way, i had a lot of respect for the enemy. as light infantry, they were good, they were i'd yo logically motivated. they had the desire and they would come in close. but if we didn't meet them in these bunker complexes, we were bumping into them in the jungle. that's what the army called a meeting engagement, it's really a fancy name for a dirt floor texas bar knife fight. when the first burst -- i'll tell you what it was like. the first burst in the jungle fight, everybody disappears. they do the right thing, they
hit the ground. when you're a company commander, they teach you can move where you best influence the action, i had two radio operators, battalion and company frequency the recon sergeant is caring radio, we had a command group of six people. yet when the fighting started, i had to move to find where people were. you can't do that all by radio. and so the challenge was getting people motivated. i had a thing about -- to some people, they had the attitude that when we -- in my case, every time we hit action. everything slowed down. it was like it was in slow motion. and i would hold a soldier and tell him what i wanted to do. and then i would have him repeat it back to me and push it and say, okay, move it, he would do what he wanted. all this while the canopy is being shot to pieces by what's going over your head or around you. little bits of leaves falling
down and all of that. the enemy was using b 40s to create frag and wood splinters. we had men wounded by pieces of trees being blown out. you could take cover behinder mit mounds. and anybody who hasn't been in southeast asia wouldn't understand. but you've seen them. they can build mounds that are 4 1/2 feet high, six feed long and six feet across. hard as cement. you can't hide from enemy automatic weapons fire. if it's coming from several different angles and you have your men down and you don't know where they are, you have to move. that was a great challenge, all of that combined was what it took at a firefight. i want to give a shout out to my brother jim joyner, wherever he is, he was another company commander in my battalion. i don't know what the odds were that the two of us wound up
commanding companies in the same battalion, jim is a great soldier, and he does the same thing i was doing. jim, wherever you are, airborne. >> if you can wait for the microphone to come to you to ask questions of our panelists. >> after you got back, you made the conscious decision to go to the bastion of pointy headed liberal academics. was that a huge transition for you? was it a difficult thing for a combat veteran to move into the
place that was commonly associated with the anti-war movement. >> i don't know how liberal texas tech university is. thanks for that. i was in the oil and gas industry for 27 years, and i got tired of doing that. and so i went back to school at the university of houston to earn my ph.d. in 1999. and i took a class called the vietnam war. i had to take some leveling classes. i had two masters degrees, but i didn't have enough history hours. they made me take undergraduate degrees. i took this course called the vietnam war. and i went in for a few days, it was a television course, it was actually on television, being teleadvised live back to whoever was watching it at 3:00 in the
afternoon, and the professor was talking about the attack at plaquo in february of 1965. and he said some sappers came through the wire with some satchel charges. and a student on television now, a student raised their hand and said, sir, i don't know what a sapper or a satchel charge is. could you please tell us. the professor turned very red in the face and said, well, i could. but there's a man in the front row here that can explain it better than i can. and i saved that professor's ass. [ laughter ] what that told me is that there are some things that are not being taught about the vietnam
war. whey decided is that my research would really be on soldiers behavior, what i found is that every time they talked, every day virtually, in that course, i've seen that even in other courses, is everybody talks as if the war was fought in washington. hanoi and saigon. and they forget about the soldiers that are doing things on the ground. both sides, all sides, and so my research has really been around that, and what i have found is sort of a -- maybe a whole for that kind of research that is different than a lot of other people are doing, as far as the conservative liberal nature, i sort of ignore that, and try to do what i think is proper. and that is to teach students that this was a big war that affected a lot of people. there are a lot of nuances associated with it.
i listen and read and everything, like all of us do, that are academics, the truth of the matter is, if we all just want to stipulate the fact that there was a war and whether we should have been there or shouldn't have been there is probably less important to me than the fact that we were, and, therefore, there's a lot of research to be done about what happened there. that's what i've chosen to do. >> great question. >> please. >> good afternoon, gentlemen. my question is -- i know since both of you worked with infantry primary, i'm not in army rotc, but my question is, with all the stuff you learned like tactically and all the -- everything you learned at ft. benning and then you're working with your rotc's or wherever you were, did you find that those things in vietnam worked, or did
you have to improvise and adapt and overcome a lot. another question i have is, i'm assuming you spent a lot of time with the arvin troops, what was your opinion on them. do you think they worked really well with you guys? i wanted your opinion on that, thank you. >> i never worked with arvin -- >> they're not arvin, but i'll answer that. >> the best thing that prepared me for vietnam was ranger school. nothing i did in vietnam was as difficult physically certainly or as mentally challenging other than making the right decision under fire than ranger. ranger was -- i think except for possibly delta these days or s.e.a.l. training, was the
toughest course the army had at the time. there were four s.e.a.l.s in my ranger class, which was 2-67 and none of them finished the course. they were real s.e.a.l.s, they were from s.e.a.l. team one. we didn't understand who s.e.a.l.s were back in the '60s, they all showed up barking, arf, arf, i'm a s.e.a.l. they didn't make it. they're great for doing things at 60 feet under the north atlantaic in winter, but in the mountains of north georgia or the jungles of vietnam, they weren't set up for that. the things that benning that they taught us, the instructors were all back from vietnam and they taught us case studies, et cetera, but you really learn it on the ground. and i think the best thing i learned to really prepare me was ranger training. and i'm grateful.
captain marm had been decorated with a medal of honor for his galantry in the first cav in '65. when he taught, you listened. does that answer your question? >> yes, i worked with all of the arvin. i happen to be on the side of thinking that the arvin were pretty good soldiers. i think pierre and andy were talking about the rough puffs and how many of them were killed in action. i happen to be someone who fell in love with the vietnamese people, even when i was there, because i worked so closely with them. i go back to vietnam every summer now to teach, and it's because of my love for the vietnamese people.
what i found to be disconcerting, i think, i might say is that the -- and i have a couple vietnamese students who are doing research on the role of the arvin in terms of their relationship to americans, and this one student of mine, the closer you worked with the arvin. the more respect you had for them. what we found mostly is that the rumor mill being that a lot of american soldiers by virtue of them -- were only there for one year, and they've heard about the arvins performance in a particular battle, we weren't there to witness it. those rumors start spreading about the cowardness, how they're cowards and they ran this particular battle and that sort of thing. and so this particular student of mine is trying to really
search some of those battles where the arvin took place, in things like operation cedar falls and junction city. and several of the operations where they were really actively involved with american soldiers. to kind of see if we can work our way through some of those myths that do exist. because i think they did as good a job as you could expect them to do under the circumstances. a lot of times, the attitude that the arvin soldiers had about americans was interesting too. remember, most american soldiers, even though we were in the field a lot. there were these huge big base camps. 25th infantry division and all these places with bars and swimming pools. and the way we like to fight wars in tremendous comfort. and a lot of our allies looked at that and said, well, that's fine, you're going to do that for one year then we're going to go home and we're going to have to stay here and continue to
fight. >> in a lot of ways, those attitudes need to be better researched and we're trying to do some of that at texas tech. >> great, thank you. >> i have a question for both of you. you mentioned the three sources of commissioning. the ocs which you regarded as the best, and west point, you said there was some -- a few who were arrogant. what is your assessment of rotc commissions. you're sitting next to one, and you'd like to know what you got from vmi. >> the research i found about rotc. not just schools like vmi, and the citadel and places like that, where we would believe that it would probably be very positive because of the military atmosphere that's created. even at schools where the rotc cadets are students that happen
to be rotc cadets as opposed to the other way around, we found it to be very positive and the army's assessment is that it was positive, and i think the reason for that, is because as the war goes on, the officers. the junior officers are getting draftees that are also college educated or they have at least had three years before the lottery system pulls them into the army, and what that meant was, you were commanding students that were sort of like you. in some ways, maybe you were a cadet, you were an rotc student, you saw the anti-war movement at your university that was going on, so you sort of understood where your soldiers were coming from with that attitude. and you did the best you could to still get good service out of them, and i think what phil was talking about, i'm sure you had draftees that probably had 2 or
3 years of college, there's nothing wrong with an educated soldier. and they may question some of the things that you're doing, but at least they'll make you think about whether that's a correct order or not. so the assessment of ft. benning's liaison teams that were going to vietnam to see about the commissioning sources were very positive about rotc. i think the reason that ocs came out on top, was it was because it was an immediate thing. the rotc cadets, once they get through the rotc program, they went to infantry officer basic course. they went there as an officer, and they were treated a certain way because they were an officer. whereas the ocs commissioning sources, you are an enlisted man for the entire. essentially one year. you're basic ait and then a year, and then six months of
ocs. by the time you became an officer, you had been an enlisted man for one year. i think that was a positive thing they saw in terms of leadership. >> i'll tell you a little vignette about ocs. and my first -- the company i commanded in the 82nd airborne between the two tours in vietnam. one day, the second lieutenant walks, in bernard knox. and he had come to us from benning, where he was the honor man in his class. going through his 201 file, i found out he was a suma cum laude graduate. he came into my company a superb officer. didn't find out until later that his father had been oss in the second world war, bernard knox.
very superb leader who then went on to become a class assist in the director of harvard institutes, mack had grown up in this academic environment. i got him aside one day and said, what did you do that for? you could have gone through the rotc program at harvard, and he said, he looked me right in the eye and said, i was not about to lead american soldiers in combat and tell them i went through some blank program. you realize that had you nailed out of ocs. you would have been sent to vietnam as an infantry man. >> he said, that was never a factor in my case. he was right. the product is a terrific product and my father went through ocs in the second world war. the program is designed to produce a lot of leaders very fast. and the affinity they have for the army, because they came through the army program, and
they were enlisted men before is very, very good. we had an officer named jake coply in my battalion, the first calvary division. he had been wounded severely on his first tour. so severely, the rumor was, he died on the evac helicopter. after he got through walter reid, he came to my unit in '69 in the first of the fifth calva calvary, and never mentioned the previous experience. he was one of the hellacious company commanders. he was tenacious to a fault. it wasn't until years later, we went down to benning to watch him get the dsc. that's the kind of product that ocs puts out. does that answer your question? >> what i learned from vmi? a lot.
and you remember somebody mentioned ocs puts you under a lot of stress? they do here, and you get four years of it. when i was commissioned, i was asked a couple times by senior officers, where did i learn to stand up in formation. wheredy learn to talk to troops like that, wheredy learn to hold myself like i did. these are officers who are minding my oers. i said, no, vmi. so vmi does give you something that is different from a lot of the other rotc schools. it's a military institute, when you graduate from here, you have a whole bad of stuff you would have never gone through at william & mary. nothing against william & mary, it's a great school. it's just different. >> my ocs class will have its 50th commemoration next year.
and so we've been having reunion abou s about every two years now. starting with our 40th, we had lost track of everybody. we were the only ocs class in history that were airborne qualified before we went to ocs because of a mistake that the pentagon made in billeting. they gave us a choice of kp or airborne school. and the director of the airborne school came out to our formation and said, they've given us all this propaganda about what a great thing it is to jump out of an airplane. then they said, will everybody that is too scared to jump out of an airplane please take one step forward? and, of course, you look up and down and see who's going to be too scared to jump out of airplanes like nobody. so we all jumped out of airplanes instead of pull kp.
that was unusual because we had an entire leg of group attack officers. that meant we were very proud of ourselves, before we even started being beat on by them. we have that reunion every year, it's amazing to see the success of those people -- they've really gone on to be successful as you talk about successful lawyers and ambassadors and generals and all kinds of really cool things. >> ron, this is mainly for you, i've wondered for a long time. i blamed this on mcnamara. i'm wondering, what do you think the impact, and if there's any hard data on the impact of the decision to only allow company commanders, battalion commanders, brigade commanders to be commanders for six months. on the war, but particularly on leadership, what kind of thing did that say about leadership for junior officers.
>> i think it was a terrible decision. in fact, if you want to go even further than that, the one year tour of duty was an issue in terms of how our allies saw our commitment to the war itself. the six month tour of duty, combat tour of duty, it takes at least that long just to know your ao. and then all of a sudden to be yanked out of it made no sense whatsoever. now, for -- and the argument was, and one of the arguments was that combat stress will get to you, and therefore. at the same time, it's combat stress on your allies side, and it's combat stress on the enemy too. i think that it was a mistake. and i don't see that it was efficient in anyway. >> i agree. i don't think it was fair to the soldiers. because as a company commander in six months in the field. you just begin to get the --
your operational environment as ron puts it, your ao, area of operations, you just get to know the terrain and the jungle and the wind and the way the animals are moving, and the sound of the birds, and i know this sounds very strange, but you start to get this sixth sense and then you come out of the field and that's your company. i was in a situation where i got hurt on a fight. it didn't break the ankle, but my foot swelled up so bad we had to cut the boot off. i'm not leaving the field, because i'm going to lose this company. we taped up real tight and i hobbled around a few days. that's how desperate it is to hold a company in combat. you get wounded that's different, you come out of the
field and they slot in another officer. this business about six month command tours. it was determined in those days, with getting your ticket punched. i hate that, that's a pejorative term. the men were on the field for a full year. you come in and you're gone for six months. it didn't serve the army well, it didn't serve the mission well. i often wondered, how many men were killed or wounded because of this rotation policy, where you were bringing new officers in all the time that didn't understand the terrain, the tactics, had to get -- they had to learn it on the job, and it was not -- i don't think it was fair to the soldiers, it was not a good policy. >> i also spent time with soldiers in the highlands at doc peck a special forces camp. and if i'm not mistaken, we really screwed the yards when we left, right?
and i'm hearing we're doing the same thing with our interpreters and so forth in iraq. why do we do this? >> yeah, i would agree. i don't know as much about the current war situation in that respect. i will tell you that the -- when i went back to vietnam for the first time in 2001, it was 30 years after i served there, i was a student at the time, and i wanted to go back. before i had -- we were supposed to go right back to the village that i served in, i had bought an itinerary, i bought the ticket through the university of houston to go there. they kept us from going into the central highlands, because they said there was rioting going on between the mountain yards and the communist government of vietnam. we couldn't go there, so i told
them, we'll drive down the road, and i grabbed the guy by the back of the neck, and stopped the jeep and got out. i didn't want to not go there, i wanted to see everything. the problem with the vietnamese attitude toward the mountain yard still exists. they have done some positive things. there's a museum in hanoi now that's very good. so they're trying to make some improvements and things like that, but i sort of compare it to some of the ways that 18, from about 1870 to 1890 that we treated the indigenous people of america. they really are the indigenous people of vietnam. there is a real ethnicity problem that it does exist. maybe that's why they sort of turned their eyes toward the americans, and they really did
love us. i guess we saw them as the underdogs and we treated them very well, they were also very good soldiers. very good soldiers. >> there's a question over here. >> i'm curious as to how the training and experience as combat officers, prepared you for the nip and tuck of the build world. or academia. >> what prepared me for the business world? >> well, the leadership and training, experience you had in the army, how did that translate to morgan stanley, goldman sachs, et cetera. >> my family was an army family. we didn't have much business experience, they were all soldiers. and what happened was, i had graduated from georgetown in the graduate school of foreign service. and taught after that. and then i was transferred. i thought i was going back to
troops. i was assigned to presidio of san francisco. i still can't figure that one out. but i was eight years in grade at that point as a captain. that's how slow promotions were after vietnam. i was about to be picked up ahead of the zone. that shows you how slow promotions were for major. on a lark, i took the gmat. because i met some people in the san francisco business community. i applied to stanford and was accepted to the business school at stanford. i thought, this is great. i called infantry branch and said, i got some great news, and the assignment's officer, a major back there at opd with a bunch of requirements on his desk said, what's the good news? i've just been accepted to the number one business school in the united states. we're building the army down, i thought, only a bureaucrat in washington could use a term like
that. we're building the army down after vietnam. we don't have any use for an officer in the infantry with an mba from anywhere. what's my next assignment. he said, you're going to korea. i said, no i'm not. what happened in that situation was, they had actually -- stanford puts together a class going -- at least they did then, going into the new mba program each year, they try to find people that add something -- if you're inviting a bunch of people to a banquet and every one of them has a different specialty. they said, you know what, you got what it takes to be a leader in business, i thought, if you believe that, i believe that. >> and that was a really heavy factor in my getting into stanford. from then on, my career has been in investment banking with morgan stanley and goldman sachs. and venture capitol. i ran the venture group at bank of america. i started and sold companies in
the valley. and i look back on my army experience and leadership as part of that thing and building companies, and managing people. i'm not an engineer, but i managed thousands of them over the last 30 years, they're great people, but always looking for leadership. my father told me when i was a kid, if you trust in your troops, your troops will trust in you. he translated that to loyalty upwards is a function of loyalty downwards. if you care for your people, they'll care for you. that's worked out in every business situation i've been in. is that okay? >> i found when i went into the oil and gas business when i came home from vietnam. i was surprised at how few veterans there were in the business. i guess just the timing. this would have been 1972, '71, '72. i was surprised there was no one like me. and i also found an attitude,
even though the business world was -- is more conservative certainly. i found sort of an attitude about me and about vietnam. you know, that we all had long hair and were hippies, and maybe i portrayed that a little bit. that probably kept me from getting some of the jobs i would have had otherwise. but i resented the way that they treated me in the business world. now, that changed after a few years, and i rose up to have generally good success. when i went into the academic world, i was already in my 50s when i got into the academies, and there nobody knew how to treat me. who is this guy? who is this old guy with long hair that's going to come in.
and the first thing they thought of is that i was probably some kind of a war monger, and i was going to turn all of our students into soldiers. i don't know how you do that, even if you could, necessarily, but that's the attitude that some of them had. i do think the military prepared me for the situations we had. i know this, most vietnam veterans, you guys can all attest. so many of you can attest to that, when you've been in combat, there's really nothing ever that's going to happen to you that's any worse than that moment. therefore, the rest of the world looks pretty easy after that. i know that. >> what is an insight that you'd
like to share with the next generation of small unit leaders going-forward. >> you better take this one. >> i was going to say the same thing. >> it's a little bit of a hackneyed phrase. and it's been portrayed in hollywood a lot, about never ask your men to do anything that you wouldn't be willing to do yourself. but i think for junior officers, that is so important. and i think it's also important that you always think of the men that you're leading as being the most important thing that you're ever going to do. by that, i mean, even if it comes to challenging your leaders, because of what they're asking you to do, which means you're asking your men and women to do that.
think of them first. if you constantly think of your own men and women in combat situations first, you will be the leader that all of them can respect. a school of business or school of engineering -- when you're being trained, deal with men and women in life and death situations, constantly. that's the most important responsibility that you can ever be in. >> i agree with that. i would add that the military today is a different military than -- you're going to be leading professionals. you're going to be leading volunteers.
and many of them will have more experience. much more experience. here's a couple points. they know more than usual -- i'm not talking your command. have a chat with your platoon leader or whatever unit you're in. your nco is going to be backing you up. no command in the army until you get above that certain level. sit down with him and tell him that you will look to him for guidance and experience. and you will refer to him in situations where he will quietly inform you as to whether or not he thinks you're making the right decision. then remind him in all cases, you are the leadership position. you look forward to working with us. that's the conversation i have with my platoon sergeant. he was 6'2", i was brand new in the army. just got out of airborne
rangers, and he bought that. i said, together we can have a great outfit. i think bear that in mind. you're going to be leading different kinds of soldiers. we have people that know what they're doing already. the army -- it's a long way from the army in vietnam. let me back this up, we have citizens come in and serve. what i saw in vietnam demonstrated the concept of citizen soldiers. these kids --
>> it's a very small function of the american population. we've been disconnected from the population for quite a while, americans don't rub up against the army like they used to during the draft. they're still out therep. i think the american soldier is the best soldier, bar none than any army in the world. you should
>> over there -- 2018 is the centennial year of u.s. participation in world war i. american history tv is marking the anniversary with a variety of programs. >> this is the defensive position. >> what you are walking into -- the creation of a world war i box -- position like this would've been 2-3 feet thick and there would've been nothing in here. on each side there were three boxes and i'm standing on the gun platform that would've been two machine guns -- one in each side. the whole idea of style of box -- it would've been a series of these men in the front of that would've been the barbed wire to
slow down the attack. >> of the the machine guns -- to slow down that attack. they could less men along the line a situation like that. the idea was to slow down the attack and also if they were going to get overrun they were told to cut and run and get out of deposition. the physician were built as a part of the in denver which is around 1917. it took the germans 3-4 month to complete the line. before they actually started trying to chew away the lives. they want just worked well. the germans also had gone through that were specially trained and the soldiers were younger and they were more physically fit. the idea was, if this area is getting attacked they could send the storm troopers into that area to help them the tide of the attack and maybe throw
it back and if that didn't work they were told to come back and fall back and regroup and there was another line of congress. >> were there any rats? >> yes, one of the problems that they have was the rat population because all the guys that died they couldn't let them retrieve the bodies. they laid their for months and times. >> the artillery and everything in the area and everything turned up the bodies were never retrieve. they got bonaparte. this is one of the things that we are finding out. they had to constantly deal with that population and the insect and -- this weekend was kind of crummy because of the rain. they had to deal with that all the time. i am going to go home tonight and take a nice shower. so, the living conditions were
horrendous. >> [ gunfire ] >> , without to historic sites and museums each sunday p.m. eastern on the weekly series american artifacts. this is american history tv all weekend on c-span -3. >> up next -- u.s. army command and general staff college professor richard falconer teaches a class on the non-more focusing on the tet offensive through u.s. withdrawal in the early 1970s. he describes how military objectives and domestic politics changed because of his campaign. also talks about richard nixon's victory in the