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tv   Coping With Low Morale During the Vietnam War  CSPAN  August 5, 2019 3:41pm-5:02pm EDT

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presidency and what ultimately led to his downfall. mr. farrell is the ah shore of richard nixon's life and career." join us every week and weekend on c-span3. this is a special edition of american history tv, a sample of history programs that airton american history tv. lectures, artifacts, the civil war, oral histories, the presidentsy, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span3. a former u.s. army psychiatrist and a retired u.s. marine lieutenant colonel who both served in vietnam now join historians to discuss the problem of low morale in the
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final years of vietnam and the war. part of manpower and morale after tet. it's an hour and 20 minutes. >> i'd like to welcome everybody back. my name is charles bowery from washington, d.c. i'd like to start off by thanking beth and the ku center for military war and society centers for hosting this and thanks to our colleagues for their ongoing collaboration in this and other events surrounding the vietnam 50th anniversary. the u.s. army has more than 500 historians, museum professionals and archivists around the world to do their best to ensure the critical perspective and thinking skills are leveraged throughout the army and make the army a learning organization.
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the army history program provides ability to results in a more effective future force and i'm honored to serve as this community's advocate at this department of army's headquarters level. we had a great discussion about the problems of morale in the first tet offense and today we will built on that and talk about the ways the army and nation's military leadership grappled with these issues in manpower and forced management. with that, we introduce our panel for session three. beth bailey for the university of kansas and the university medical center and meredith lair an associate professor of history and gary solis, a professor of law at georgetown
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university. >> hello, everyone. good afternoon. i want to start by saying how pleased i am to be included in today's proceedings. this a very special subject for me. i'm honored to be amongst the distinguished historians speaking and attending. i was really an accidental historian. didn't set out to be one, didn't want to be one. it came to pass. i am very pleased, in 2015 the army surgeon's office published my book which is up here being illustrated, which represents some 35 years off and on, of an attempt to put together all the pieces i could find eluding to
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the morale and mental health and i will say crisis we ended up with in vietnam and i hope to illustrate that in the time i have today. so shameless plug, here's the book, if anybody wants to look at it. if not, if you're interested, all the references to what i'm going to put up here are in the book, so i won't put references in these slides. i do have some cards if you're interested, that have the website to the army's surgeon general's office. the book is free online and you can access anything you want you might be interested on. my title is "drawdown vietnam from halcion to heroin." that says it all. i am refuting -- i was going to ask if any of these lights can be brought down at all? i know we're filming.
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is that a no? okay. some of the -- is there a cursor up here? okay. i need to go back. that won't do it. okay. so, i was in vietnam 1970, '71, as a psychiatrist. i was the commanding officer for a detachment, one of the two definitive treatment centers in vietnam for the army, and i left gratefully in 1971, in october, and really hoped to put it in my rear view mirror for the next decade, surely the army would study the crisis we had there and smarter people than i would come up with answers. after 10 years, i decided, no, they weren't going to do it.
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if anything like that would be done, it was up to me. fortunately, i was able to get an assignment at walter reed's army research. i spent five years in a back part of the building because they were all interested in world war iii they were sure was going to happen soon but weren't that interested in vietnam. to my dismay is the army retained no clinical psychiatric records from vietnam. any hope we would have primary sources to study these problems evaporated. i ended up trying to find all the psychiatrists who served in vietnam, i was able to do, all those surviving and i ended up with a structured instrument i sent out to them so i ended up asking them all the questions i wanted to know about what they did and saw and how did it work and how did they feel about what they did in vietnam. i had too much data.
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i left vietnam exhausted professionally and deeply troubled by all the misery that surrounded me and my colleagues as well as dismayed at our corporate failure, the country, the government and army and certainly army psychiatry. the book has been, i suppose somewhat of my redemption in all of this to find all the pieces i didn't have. i knew what we saw but i didn't know what the real story, full story was. it's in the book, not a memoir at all. i will show you some findings. some impressionist and some graphs and some photographs with expressions by the soldiers i think help tell the story. let me go to the first one. this is the two vietnam wars, as i call it, late war rising rates
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for psychiatric casualties and psychosis and declining combat intensity. it refers to the wounded rate with troupe strengths. to have it on the scale i instead used the battle death rate. these are not raw numbers, percentages of those deployed. you end up with this totally unprecedented disconnect between the psychiatric issues and the combat stress, as it would be measured, at least by this index. it's really important, i think, to emphasize to y'all that military psychiatry is not just another medical specialty that lives in the hospital and it was for patients to show up. military psychiatry through the last dozens of decades has been involved as much in morale as involved in mental health. in fact, following world war ii and then in korea, we placed
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psychiatrists, we had them embedded and some of their support personnel embedded in combat divisions, and we did that in vietnam. the combat supplied with mental health personnel. in any effect, as you'll see, the psychiatric indices here are not just measuring psychiatric, acute psychiatric conditions per se. let me go on to the next one. what this really is is a summary of the psychiatric story in vietnam, and i was to emphasize here, i want to bring into our q what someone's called, and i'd love to know who started this, inverted morale as opposed to just low morale. when troop commitment cohesion is replaced by cliques based on submutinous opposition to military authority. so in vietnam, psychiatric
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hospitalization rates quadrupled as you can see there the earlier slide. misconduct, performance failures, accelerated and as seen in noncombat fatalities, combat refusals, corruption, and profiteering, racial incidents, judicial, nonjudicial disciplinary actions including defiance and dissent, or especially combat aggression, combat atrocities. violence or threats against military leaders, including fragging which was mentioned earlier. suicides then drug use, especially heroin after 1970. i'll have more to say about the heroin situation. but the peak estimates -- these are reasonable estimates based on everything that i've read -- is 60% -- in the last couple -- 60% were using marijuana of all soldiers and 30% were using heroin. now, that doesn't mean they were addicted to heroin.
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perhaps 5% were truly addicted to heroin but 30% were using it at least recreationally. mental health system became swamped with disheartened, disgruntled, untreatable soldiers and army psychiatrists performed behavior disorders or personality disorder diagnoses and this was before the regulation thereat insisted the commander could get at least soldiers under certain groupings, 212 discharge from the army, administrative disharndi discharge from the army, they had to have a psychiatrist to take a look at them to see whether they deserved it or instead of medical discharge from the army. as it turned out, it could be a short cut for the commander, who was fed up with certain troops so that they really hoped that they would have a friendly psychiatrist at the other end of this referral line so that they could get these things rubber stamped and accelerate them getting out of the unit and out
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of vietnam. in the last couple of years, these character and behavior disorders and psychiatric conditions became the most prominent medical problem face bid the army in vietnam. most prominent medical problem. voluntary or forced treatment, rehabilitation of heroin users was unsuccessful. we went through all sorts of gymnastics to try to rehabilitate these soldiers without really ultimately any useful effect. so, let me see the last one. medical evacuation back to the states became the treatment of choice. it was really a remedy, i guess, for huge numbers of soldiers. the medivac rate was 1969, four per a thousand troops per year and grow steadily to reach 130 per thousand by april '72, which meant at that point one out of every eight soldiers was medically evacuated from
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vietnam, primarily for drug use, primarily for heroin use. so what i want to do in the remaining slides is to -- some of them, anyway, to let the soldiers speak for themselves here. and what i'm talking about, or i've paired photographs that i have, for one reason or another happen to have with slogans that i thought were exceptionally poignant and telling of what these soldiers were feeling. and so it's not just them, it's collectively. so here's the first one. early war bravado, i'm calling this. i don't know if you're familiar with that phrase, but i had heard it at walter reed. throughout the first couple of years the war morale stayed high. rates for psychiatric were surprisingly low including for combat stress.
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in fact, they were no greater than a stateside force. i think that was said earlier this morning. the ultimate reality was that winning proved to be far more difficult than anticipated in vietnam. won't surprise this group. accompanied by growing alarm that the war was causing unacceptable levels of destruction, collateral damage, and displaced refugees. now, this didn't end up being a poster, but it's the same idea here. i particularly like this one so much that i put it on the cover of the book. this is an anti-aircraft weapon that the troops have nicknamed. i don't know if you can see it. the peacemaker. both sides of it, one of them is the international peace symbol and the other is the hand slogan for peace. and i don't know if you can see up at the top the machine gun --
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oh, okay, the cursor -- the machine gun in placement would be, they've named this the pill pusher. so you might see here some ambivalence. annual replacement troops primarily draftees, to doubt their purpose and risk the sacrifices, attitudes strongly encouraged by the growing anti-war sentiment within a dispassionate youth movement. i'll show you some slides, some graphs here as we go along. on all of them, the attention is on 1968. this is a gallup poll that it just happens to be in '68 that those who favor the war begin to be lower than the ones who are in favor of the war. excuse me. the other way around. those who disapprove of the war exceed those that are in favor of the war.
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we've said this phrase several times today. i guess it was the abiding refrain, wasn't it? i've labeled this also loss of the will to fight. replacement troops sent to vietnam were increasingly affected by, i parsed it out into five groups here. a radicalized increasingly liberal counterculture youth movement, so-called generation gap, which was in sync with the growing new left. number two, the civil rights movement, associated incendiary racial polarization. number three, widespread antagonism toward american institutions, especially u.s. military. number four, a spreading often savage anti-war movement. and number five, an expanding youth drug culture which increasingly involved more dangerous drugs.
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paralleling the civil rights movement in the state, anti-military attitudes and behaviors in vietnam found their fullest expression among the large number of black troops increasingly demoralized, disruptive, often violent behaviors by angry young african-americans became increasingly kplinkree increasingly common. can you read the slogan? can you read this one? "foolish for going, wrong for participating, and inadequate for losing!" the public seemed to condemn anyone connected to the war or military, including those whose duty it was to serve there, as if the only honorable attitude for the soldier was one of opposition and avoidance. thus, thousands of young men who share the country's war wariness
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were sent to vietnam as late war replacements to defend america's cause under circumstances of increasing moral ambiguity. in this slide, it sort of gives you -- this is worldwide army a-wol and desertion rates. there's 1968 again. and is a reminder why you can't lock at a-wol and desertion rates in vietnam as a measure of anything. there was nowhere to go in vietnam, if you went a-wol or deserted. so you have to look for broadly than that to see what the morale of the military was, the army and then, of course, in vietnam was only worse. this is my favorite one. "we are the unwilling, led by the unqualified, doing the unnecessary, for the ungra ungrateful." there it is.
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i hear that. somebody say there it is? there it is, yeah. okay. so, to me, this is representative of inverted morale and the loss of the will to serve. troops were reacting to an intolerable feeling of feeling purposeless, as the war effort was waning, confined, bored and isolated. vulnerable as the ranks thinned in vietnam. shamed due to the public's condemnation of the authority. debased and oppressed by the american authority. and their sacrifices and hardships were not justified or appreciated. this is worldwide all branches, not just the military. i didn't have access to otherwise from 1968 on. administrative discharge rates. for maladaptive behavior. they would end up in the psychiatrists' office for evaluation, i said. the institution of the army was
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simultaneously impaired. obviously. "vietnam don't mean nothing." i don't know if you can read the le left. late drawdown denial. "don't mean nothing," of course, is blowing things off, but it also, to me, represents a wish to deny and disassociate from your circumstance, and the best way to do that was with drugs, was with heroin. and this indigenous heroin market began in 1970 early and the soldiers found this very -- a very popular way to try and get through the year in vietnam. it eclipsed other medical and psychiatric problems. by late '71, more soldiers were being evacuated for vietnam for drug use than for war wounds. in july of '72, i already said one of eight soldiers was evacuated back to the states. okay. it was a problem for which the
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army and army psychiatry had no answers. and that's a story in itself. it's the biggest chapter in the book. but what was disputed until the end was whether the heroin use was a psychiatric problem, a medical problem or discipline problem. and all the authorities from each of those sections fought over what to do, whose problem it really was. oops, i didn't mean to get there that fast. this slide is similar to that other one. this time i'm using wounded in action rate, showing nonjudicial punishments over time right till 1972 where it drops off just like psychiatric outpatients drops off. the reason it drops off, now we're evacuating people out of the theater. that's the orange line there. as well as court-martialing them. this is -- [ laughter ]
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there it is. there it is. anyway. that speaks for itself. real quick, this is the race for fragging and overdose deaths. notice, there is no 1968 or before that, because there weren't any to speak of. no one was counting them anyway. we start to have the fragging incidents and narcotic overdoses. suicide rate jumping up in 1968. takeaway, i'll finish with this. after '68, growing anti-war, anti-sentiment, produced widespread psychiatric dissent, including heroin use, assassination threats and
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attempts on superiors and increasing institutional dysfunction. these failed to yield to efforts to strengthen military leadership, troop commitment and cohesion or conventional psychiatric approaches, thus a public health crisis and potential military disaster. thank you. [ applause ] hello again. i am working on a book that is about how the u.s. army as an institution tried to manage what it often called during this
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period the problem of race during the vietnam era. and so i'm really interested in the question behind this panel, not how -- whether or not there was a problem of race or how people claimed racial equality or rights but how did this massive institution in the middle of a very difficult and increasingly unpopular war, address what its leaders identified as perhaps the central problem of morale that the institution faced, a war within a war that had become so violent and disruptive that many army leaders identified it as a threat to combat readiness and combat effectiveness. so, how does this army war, given its current mission, institutional culture, its logic, its circumstances, try to neutralize what most people begin to agree is a highly disruptive force, the problem of race?
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so, to begin, it's really key to remember that in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and '60s, in general in the united states, including among african-american leaders, the u.s. military was widely heralded as a success, including by african-american leaders. i want to emphasize that one more time. and as the united states military and the army, i'm looking in particular, moved into vietnam, it got an awful lot of attention to the issue of race. and that's in part because the war in vietnam was the first u.s. war that was fought by a fully, intentionally integrated armed force. but it was also because it was coinciding with the beginning of a lot of racial uprising in american cities. so the violence at home was being contrasted with the comity being found at least in the combat troops in vietnam. you see this whole flood of articles in the press, heralding
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how well the u.s. army, the military in general, is doing. you get this constant refrain. i see only one color and that's olive drab. i could have given you another dozen. i have some fabulous pictures but wasn't able to get permissions ahead of time, so you're going to have to cope with text. there's only one color and it's olive drab. it's not that they're wrong. in many ways, even though there was plenty of individual and institutional racism that african-american soldiers and other people of color in the military had to cope with during this era. i can say that another 20 times just to reinforce it. compared to civilian society, the u.s. military really did, in general, offer better opportunities for people of color than did their civilian counterparts. and racial conflict among combat troops in vietnam was relatively
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rare, even if it was rarely as much of a warborn racial understanding and love fest as the public media often portrayed. they got really sacrin at times in their discussions of this. particularly in the office of the secretary of defense to follow racial equality. and in the early 1960s, the major move made was to remove racial designations of all forms. in order that decisions wouldn't be made based on the basis of race and, therefore, equality would be best fostered. but as the military is focusing on color blindness as a path to equality, an increasing number of african-americans, most particularly young black men, the ones who were likely to be drafted and sent to vietnam, are starting to embrace a distinct black identity. to start embracing a notion of racial pride and cultural
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nationalism. so you got the two groups moving in pretty fundamentally different directions. so is 1968 a turning point? i think so. probably less directly due to the aftermath of the tet offensive and the increasing sense that the united states is focused on negotiating rather than winning the war. and more about martin luther king's assassination and the radical changes that are taking place in american civilian society. problems within the military around race have been growing. it's not that it's all new. but they didn't get a lot of official notice, in part because it wasn't defined as a problem by command. and so records weren't being kept. in the aftermath of the long ben jail riot -- this is public domain -- the lessons learned report from the military police never once mentioned anything about race, racial conflict,
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racial causes. and that was at the center of this event. being measured. nonetheless, by 1969, army leadership is recognizing that race is a major crisis. general westmoreland gets his staff to do a major study and issues a message about centrality of racial issues but it's really the secretary of the army, stanley reiser at this point, decides to make race the focus of his major address in 1969. he gives a short little talk about vietnam and the positive outlook in vietnam. this is october 1969. who knows. but he focuses in this talk on race and that does two things. first, it makes race a focus of command attention. because he says this a problem we have to solve. and the second thing he did was
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probably more significant. he calls for a shift from color blind to race consciousness. a negro in uniform does not cease to be a negro and become a soldier instead. he becomes a negro soldier. the opposite direction from removing racial designations from forms. we have to pay attention to the racial identity and experiences of our soldiers. so how does this translate to vietnam? army records from the inside suggest there was an awful lot of resources being devoted to the problem of race that was growing. there are lots of fact-finding trips, evaluations conducting. it also shows a lot of times the implementation wasn't wholehearted because the committees would frequently be formed. the doors painted shortly. the paint still wet when the inspectors get there. but they, nonetheless, did pay attention.
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and as army senior leaders sought solutions, people in local command or even junior officers often found themselves having no choice but to -- oh, what happened here? oh, well, this got lost. this is the soul brothers. had a little trouble with their spelling. it should be soul brothers. they said if you don't stop f'ing with the negro, there's going to be trouble like there hasn't been seen before. if we aren't treated better, there will be trouble. this was before the crisis of 1968. and the inspector general investigation here concluded that they did the inquiry and that there really wasn't any problem here, that people were
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using racial epithets and displaying the confederate flag and, perhaps, that would cause problems, but they found no evidence of racial friction in the unit. so, the most significant and longla long-lasting attempts to try to manage the problem of race are those that really extend past the u.s. period in vietnam. the reform of the military justice system. an embrace of the principles of affirmative action. invisible leadership. what i want to talk about briefly today are the two solutions or attempts at solutions that were embraced in vietnam. so army leaders, problem with race, the first solution they looked to is leadership. right? not surprised. the first realization is that junior officers, in particular, are not trained to deal with race. they have no clue.
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this is an inspector general's interrue with a major who was involved in a racially escalating conflict explaining why he didn't intervene at all. i hear the word, civil rights. what's the other one that goes along with it? equality. i said i don't want to hear any more of that, so i left. perhaps the most hapless major in the army, but he didn't foe what to do. they created a flood of handouts and exercises and trainings. some of it worked. the other thing that they discovered is that senior commanders often had no clue what was going on, that the racial conflict was often hidden from them by people who did not want to look bad or that they were just too far removed. so, what happens in vietnam is that they create race relations councils, which exist outside the hierarchy of rank, which
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meant that privates were advising the senior commanders without going through hierarchy. that didn't go over so well for a lot of the ncos and junior officers, as you might expect. and then finally to show they were really serious, they made how you handled race relations a category of evaluations on the oer and the officer efficiency report, which did get the attention of these people who were in power. okay. the second approach, and this is more surprising, they exceeded at least in limited fashion to demands to display black pride and identity. now there's an opening decline. who is going to make it possible to do that? and any time there are resources up for grabs within this institution, somebody is going to step forward and claim those resources, and perhaps not surprisingly at this point, it was the px. it was the army and air force exchange who stepped forward and
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said, we can do that. so you end up instead with, you know, selling to soul music and the px and such. meredith lair will probably talk about consumer goods later on. you'll hear more about that. they sent a black barber to vietnam to teach local barbers how to cut afros. claiming it. the commanders also began allowing to varying degrees expressions of black identity. afros. slave bands. limited black power salutes. dapping, the complicated method of greeting one another. maybe you can see the problem coming. if you've got an institution that is based on clear regulation and uniformity, you can't say that some people and other people can't, right? you want to guess what the next slide is? it's not that it wasn't around
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before, but this did not help improve race relations. so, can you allow members of the military to express an identity that challenges the broader identity of service member, of soldier, or is that presumption of identity so wide based that it is such fundamental institutional racism that this has to be challenged? if a proper haircut is called a white wall, right, does it undermine the hierarchy of rank if brothers greet each other with a dap? i mean, does the colonel dap with the private? should he? what does it mean if he does? so my question is, in the end, how much does the culture and logic of this particular institution, this particular
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circumstance determine what kind of approaches may and may not work? i'm left with the question, so what? did it work at all? did it help? with vietnam, yeah, it did help to some extent. when you actually acknowledge there's a racial problem and pay attention to it, it's better than pretending there isn't one. when you make officers accountable of their leadership, jim back there who clearly was failing, you tend to get better results. but in the end what really happened here is that the war is going to end before the crisis is managed and so as is perfectly clear from the previous presentation, from my camp, the crisis continues to escalate and in terms of race, the solutions, the limited solutions, at least, will come after the end of the war. thanks. [ applause ]
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before i get started, i want to extend my thanks to beth bailey and ku colleagues and the u.s. army center for military history for welcoming all of us here. i also want to extend a special thanks to carrie cane in the back there for everything she's done and the other ku staff as well who've made this event happen. so, thank you, carrie. so i was sick recently, unable to teach, at home on medical leave. it was hard. it was also very boring. and so i had long days punctuated by literally nothing. on those days, i found myself doing something that i don't normally do, spending money online for stuff i don't need. speakers for my iphone, a table runner. i think i browsed several
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thousand ottoman trays. why? because it made me feel better. studies have shown that shopping triggers the pleasure centers in the brain. it is an easy, soothing, activity that assuages boredom. if you shop for other people to buy them gifts, you feel more connected to them. even if you're separated by distance. shopping provides a sense of control for people who feel like they aren't in control of their circumstances. shopping creates a sense of freedom and choice for people who feel like they can't make choices. shopping gives you something to look forward to, like christmas. then you get your new stuff and you feel better because you look better or more affluent or more grown-up. consumption lets you project a new and better you. so what does this have to do with the vietnam war? think about american soldiers serving in vietnam. they were lonely. they felt isolated and scared. they were often bored especially
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late in the war and many, many of them did not want to be there. they did not want to be in vietnam and many did not want to be in the military. they have little freedom and even less control over their very lives. they wanted to go home. these were difficult circumstances and given that these were mostly young men and many of them were armed and there was easy access to drugs and especially alcohol, and there was a war going on, this is a very serious problem. how do you make people in these circumstances feel better? one solution is you distract them with wholesome activities and you give them access to consumer goods. at least that's how military authorities in vietnam chose to address this problem. and i wrote a whole book about this called "armed with abundance." so there's a couple things you need to know about "armed with abundance" and this problem generally. the first thing is, just a
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reminder, only 15% to 25% of americans who served in the vietnam war served in combat. and so i'll draw your attention to the brotuchure for this even which depicts a combat soldier. this is an iconic representation of the american soldier in vietnam but it is not representative of the american soldier in the vietnam war, most of whom were not serving in this kind of capacity. suffice it to say, a lot of americans who were serving in vietnam worked in environments that left a lot of free time at the end of their work day. second, by presidethe 1960s, ams had a pretty high standard of living, vast majority of american households were stocked with radios, televisions, refrigerators, and labor-saving devices. what soldiers took with them to vietnam then was a pretty high standard for what constituted comfort, which helped to frame their expectations once they
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realized that the war wasn't necessarily going to meet their expectations of what a war should be. third, vietnam war zone was many, many things. at times and in places it was violent, like "platoon" and "we were soldiers." i don't deny the reality of that war. but over time, this is a long process that i argue actually began in the mid '60s, before tet. an increasingly broad array of places, the war zone was something else. a world defined by abundance in which american soldiers enjoyed a standard of living vastly better than the vietnamese people they had come to liberate and personal material satisfaction often displaced national interest in defining the individual's war experience. so commanders in vietnam had an interesting problem. a soldier workforce that was unhappy and bored often with too much free time living in close proximity to vietnamese civil n civilians. many base commanders determined they had to keep these two populations apart. because if american soldiers visited vietnamese villages or towns in their off-duty hours,
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they might fall prey to criminal activity, might fall victim to insurgent activity, their spending on the local economy was a strong driver of vietnamese inflation and their behavior, drinking, carousing, visiting brothels, was corrosive to civil military relations. so this need to keep them confined to bases was an important driver of american-based development which was spectacular. i'm not going to talk at length about base development in vietnam but suffice it to say that the u.s. military invested heavily in providing food, shelter and entertainments that would, in theory, keep soldiers happily confined to base. morale-building efforts included the creation of tv rooms, movie nights, in some cases movie theaters, athletic facilities. i'm not talking about a few of them. there were over 1,300 athletic facilities, craft centers, education centers, recreational beaches, network of red cross
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uso and open mess clubs and pss and concessions that offered the retail therapy i spoke of earlier. i want to give you a sense of the scale of what i call the retail war in vietnam, effort to provide consumer goods. shopping in vietnam was done primarily through the vietnam regional exchange. otherwise known as the px system. vre grew as the war escalated. so these local managers are literally kind of on the front lines of the morale question. and eventually, vre became one of the largest department store chains in the world. the most common purchases for american soldiers were radios, fans, cassette recorders, cameras, televisions, and refrigerators, in roughly descending order and we're talking here about sales in the hundreds of thousands f s per y. these could be bought at below market price. there's a sort of added benefit to shopping in vaucietnam. these purchases obviously provided comfort, entertainment and means of staying in touch with the folks at home.
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vre also contracted with vietnamese or third-country national entrepreneurs to provide services to american troops. the most common vre concessions were laundries, barbershops, gift shops that sold vietnam freeze souvenirs and tailor shoshop shops that made custom clothing. we're talking about thousands of co concessions. concessions in vietnam as a whole grossed $90 million in fiscal year 1970 alone. i'm going to give some other dollar amount. none of them are adjusted for inflation. maintained a slew of policies that facilitated and encouraged consumption. a low-cost repair program for electronics, free shipping of consumer goods back home, pushing consumer goods into remote yarareas. a ration program for electronics, alcohol and cigarettes that sought to ensure that px shelves were not picked over and to prevent px goods
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from being sold on the black market. the contents of a ration card was worth $2,000 to $3,000 on the black market. if you could dump that, buy that and a px, sell it, could you turn a profit of several hundred dollars. also a stunning informational campaign in unit newspapers and command publications to remind soldiers about the shopping opportunities that awaited them in vietnam. so by august 1970, vre had grown to 310 retail stores, 189 snack bars that collectively carried over 3,000 items. vr vre's gross sales peaked in 1970 at $441 million. but sales averaged around $350 million for fiscal years 1968 to 1972. net profits were also healthy growing from 6% in 1967 to 14% in 1971, so you can see it's a pretty profitable enterprise. these figures don't include the catalog, remember catalogs? the online slopping of the 196 os and '70s.
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the catalog offered a slew of consumer goods, clothing, jewelry, housewares, not for use necessarily in vietnam but for sending home. it was originally directed toward military personnel serving in the pacific and initially soldiers serving in vietnam were not eligible to make purchases. i don't have figures for the sales in vietnam, alone, but before service was extended to soldiers in vietnam, pakx was selling $1 million in mench d merchandise a year. then sales topped out at $95 million a year in fiscal year 1971. so you might be wondering where did the money go? as a rule, vre's profits were first directed toward internal capital improvements. it meant the pxs got larger, nicer, more ubiquitous as the year went on. after capital improvements, profits went toward morale-building activities like the athletic facilities, libraries and craft centers i mentioned earlier that were meant to meet the recreational needs of the troops.
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a roeltrelated engine of revenu the open system of clubs which were essentially bars that might have floor shows. these were for military personn personnel. in 1969, there were 2,000 open mess clubs in vietnam which grossed $177 million that year yielding a profit over $22 million. these funds were also folded into morale-building activities and they helped to pay for a high-rise hotel for military personnel on r&r in hawaii. as a morale program, consumerism in vietnam literally paid for itself. so what's going on here? there's a couple of things. if we think about the american soldiery as a workforce, we can regard what's happening as a kind of labor negotiation with disgruntled soldier workers essentially withholding their compliant labor to negotiate better living and working conditions and better terms of employment. and how did the command regard this phenomenon? the relationship between
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consumption and morale is most clear in records of efforts to cut amenities and consumption opportunities for troops during the drawdown in the early '70s. local base commanders argued strenuously against cutting recreation facilities, the paring down of concession contracts, new policies that made it harder for soldiers to pay by check and even the removal of massage parlors and brothels from american bases. and they always articulated their objections in terms of the devastating blow that these measures would deal to local troops' morale. so you might be wondering, was the abundance successful in improving morale? and the answer is no. in fact, it kind of backfired. first of all, it created resentments. south vietnamese people resented americans, which was problematic for conduct of the war as a whole, so not a conclusion germane to our conversation today but a big problem with this effort. more importantly for our purposes, americans resented
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each other. thich this is the dichotomy that was mentioned this morning. because all of this was relative, the abundance is not spread evenly. the sad reality was usually the people risking the least enjoyed the most. second, some soldiers were disappointed that their living conditions were so good. they wanted a more austere experience and resented that base amenities and duty did not afford them the opportunity to prove themselves as soldiers and as men. third, the abundance in shopping in vietnam, it created a paradox. the more that was spent on morale, the more the vietnam war zone stopped feeling and looking like a war zone. which caused american soldiers to wonder what is the point of being here? it the war was so remote they had to read about it on the base newspaper or watch it on the tv news? soldiers who were insulated from combat or depravation and
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danger, the ones who benefited the most from the abundance that i described, ironically, they had the lowest morale. in camps. we were just talking about that. i think it's worth remembering even if they wsht sereren't ser combat, they still suffered. they were lonely. they were scared. bored. and homesick. life at home was going on without them. the war was unpopular, unlikely to be won and felt unworthy of their sacrifice. consumer goods that made 19-year-old kids feel better or look better or seem more affluent than they really were served as a sort of sad so consolation prize for their struggles. despite staggering efforts to replicate the comforts of american life, soldiers still suffered low morale because in the end, most of them did not want home-front living in vietnam. they wanted to go home. thank you.
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[ applause ] >> there's a parallel universe going on in vietnam i didn't know about at all. [ laughter ] hey, all i know my first eight months on the second tour i didn't flush a toilet. tells you where i lived. there were no brothels where i was. all right. i'm solis. eric's explanation of project 100,000 this morning allowed me to cut about two minutes out of mine. i'm going o to tell you where i
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coming from in my remarks. i'm lieutenant colonel, u.s. marine corps, retired. i'm still a u.s. marine and i will be until the day i die. i'm wearing my dog tags right now. they were issued in '63. and my remarks come from the authoritarian side. that is to say, well, when i was 6 years old on my 6th birthday, i went to military school, boarding school, and came out 12 years later. went to san diego state and i joined rotc. i signed up with the marines when i was 20. day i graduated, i went to quantico. and i left the marine corps 26 years later. my first opportunity after i got my degree, my final degree, i went to west point where as a civilian, i was a law professor.
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so i represented the man from six on. so now my remarks. in world war i, prime minister george clemenseux of france said reportedly military justice is to justice as military music is to music. i happened to like military music. the marine's hymn. washington post march. but he was tone deaf. morale was a delicate flower. over the period of many months, the good morale of the company of 250, 300, men and women, may be built up through the leadership of a cadre of officers and noncommissioned officers. then by a foolish act or an
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ill-considered word of a leader, the good morale may be trashed in a day as quickly as it takes to spread the word from marine to marine or soldier to soldier. its restoration will take a new iteration of strong leadership. and it will take time. on the strength of the gulf of tonkin reds loo tonkin resolution, the conflict escalated. the victory was among the reach of our uncertain military in vietnam. general westmoreland. vy i have a verbatim quote from a recorded meeting in the white house between president johnson and robert mcnamara which he reports in his book, in ret retrospect. the president, "then no matter what we do in the military field, there is no sure victory." mcnamara, "that's right. i'm saying we may not find a military solution.
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our military action approach is an unacceptable way to a successful conclusion." now that was on december 17th, 1965. the first u.s. expansion of the conflict in vietnam occurred when the 9th marine expeditionary brigade landeder in denafg on 5th, march, 1965. nine months later, then-secretary of defense mcnamara told president johnson the war could not be won. i returned from vietnam in march of '65. '66, i returned for 13knowingy maimed and killed in a conflict the president knew was a lost cause. the president, the american public, largely intuitive that
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vietnam was not what was called a just war. it took me and the military a little longer to figure it out. when mcnamara's book came out, i was angered that a political leadership would allow a lost war to continue for another eight years. military morale was already par. recruited for subpar. uniform criminality was at an all-time high. in many commands, discipline actually teetered. what was the military to do when the effects of virtually universal bad morale was evidenced in bad conduct and unlawful acts? well, the military's a gigantic body that lives and breathes discipline. when met with indiscipline, the military does what it does best. it reacts with disciplinary action. apprehension. restraint. court-martial. confinement. rejection. and ejection.
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courts marsh courts-martial are federal convictions. well, good leadership is severely tasked in time of war. there's little time for god leadership principles to be applied and fostered into reform conduct. especially in vietnam when a tour of duty was only 13 months for marines. 12 months for the army. as north vietnamese general said, the americans didn't fight a nine-year war, they fought a one-year war nine times. dead right. there's little time for effective leadership to take root, especially when unit to haitian has bleach cohesion has to be jettisoned in favor of individual replacements rather than unit replacements especially when troops so badly needed common courtroom sentences were two years in jail or two years in the army. the vietnam conflict initiated a ten-year period, in my opinion, of military disciplinary turmoil, 1965 to 1974, that's
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not been seen before or since. military casualty rates were a pay jor m major morale problem. in our current armed conflict, including iraq, afghanistan, pakistan, uzbekistan, syria, afri africa, four american combat deaths in a day is front-page news. in vietnam, on december 31st, 19 -- excuse me, january 31th, 1968, 245 u.s. combatants were killed. one day. 245 dead. now that's a morale butt kicker. in a single month, may of 1968, 2,316 american combatants were killed. 2,316 in one month. that's more -- in the current
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war, afghanistan, uzbekistan, iraq, syria, there have only been 2,305 killed in 18 years. in one month, more than that died in vietnam. low morale was reflected in vietnam's drug use as we already heard. drugs in vietnam, not only ma marijua marijuana, speed, heroin, horse tranquilizers, you name t all were easily available in vietnam and they were cheap. you remember sometimes if you sent your clothes o ut to be cleaned in the laundry in the local ville, they would come back with a stick of marijuana in it? they were giving it to you free so you'd come in and get some more. they were giving away marijuana. i prosecuted two soldiers, two
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ncos, who sold drugs to their troops in formation. that's a bad day. that's a bad day. in 1969, vietnam, military assistance command vietnam, which included all u.s. troops in republic of vietnam, recorded 47 drug apprehension. 1965, 47 apprehensions. in 1969, there were 8,446 drug apprehensions. that's a 10,000% increase in 4 years. and as we've seen here, by the end of american involvement in the war, more soldiers were being evacuated to the u.s. for drug problems than for wounds. low morale in vietnam was both indicated and exacerbated by race relations, as we've also heard. our post-tet military reflected the worst aspects of that divisive right here in the u.s., but soldiers and marines had
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high-powered weapons. afros, daping, black power symbols, passing power. they're all ancient history. some of you many the room probably haven't heard of them before today. in '67, '68 and 69, they were the fuses of daily fights in the mess line, aggravated assaults in the barracks, gang fights in camps, fraggings of officers and intramural firemigfights. 1969 in the marine corps in vietnam, there were two intramural firefights. black marines versus white mari marines. didn't hear about that from walter cronkite. low morale engendered fraggings. a fragging is when you throw a fragmentation grenade into the hooch of a sleeping marine, officer, usually, under his cot or toss one to his sleeping bag as he's sleeping.
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official numbers ws s weren't compiled. indicates there were 100 to 150 fraggings in the marine corps. during my second tour in vietnam as an armor officer, we captains were always thinking about fraggings. the army's fragging estimate is similarly loose but equally startling, 527 fraggings in the army. 527 fraggings. low morale led to desertions. desertions grew to an all-time highbranch was of the armed forces. camp pendleton where i returned to active duty in 1971 after law school was the designated west coast post for apprehended marine desserte desereters. in 1969, when the avalanche of captured deserters began to overwhelm the marine corps justice system, desertors were
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housed in barracks. defense counsels would meet briefly with their accused a day or two before trial. court-martial was no more than a necessary formality. all accused pleaded guilty. they just wanted their bad paper. that is their bcd or their dishonorable discharge and a bus ticket or train ticket to return to their lives. that is how the military handled its morale problem. war marines, drug gies and deserters, drug advocates were fully engaged. in 1968 in vietnam, alone, the marine corps tried 2,738 court-martials in the combat zone. that's more than 228 courts-martial a month. that's how the military handled its morale problem. but the military had still another crippling hindrance. that's project 100,000 which you
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already heard about. starting -- well, you know about it. category 4s called cat 4s had an immediate negative effect. general westmoreland said category 4 is a dummy, introduced an untrained element, that's ben the disciplinary problems began on the battlefield. he was somewhere else. actually they began two years before that. cat 4s had desertion rates and court-martial convictions double those of other servicemen. cat 4s were a source of disciplinary problems not merely until project 100,000 program ended in 1971 but through 1974 when their enlistment contracts ended three years later. cat 4s are high we exacerbated our morale problem. in 1975 when the military was still dealing with poor quality personnel from earlier vietnam enlistments, i prosecuted 110
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courts-martial. 110 courts-martia l if one year. that's about ten times the number of courts-martials most judge advocates today try in a career. i tried 22 cases in 1 month on okinawa. criminal trials were booming on the back of bad morale. even after vietnam had ended. courts-martial and punitive discharges were how the military handled its morale problem. in 1965 to 1974, they were challenging times to be in the armed forces. good soldiers were discouraged by unintelligent and criminal fellow soldiers. good marines, a seemingly endless war that killed their comrades. without the slightest sign of improvement in vietnam circumstances. from the perspective of marine
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corps company commander in vietnam combat post-tet, troop morale was lower than low. it was disastrous. thank you. [ applause ] >> we have about ten minutes for questions. and we need to sit in order. so -- >> oh. okay. >> i go here. >> i go where. >> just a reminder, your questions, please stand up when you ask them.
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>> for beth bailey, why do you think stanley reiser gave that speech in 1969 when clearly the general officers didn't seem to be as upset or nervous about it. >> so, general westmoreland sent colonel white, an african-american service member, out to do an analysis of what was going on. and he came back and gave we westmoreland a briefing in which he basically said all of those things. and then westmoreland scheduled a briefing for the secretary of the army. and they spent a good 2 1/2 hours with him and he got the same briefing and then he adopted a lot of that language directly from colonel white's statement. so, obviously, the secretary of the army is not just going to take whatever advice some random colonel gives him, but on the
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other hand, they must have found it compelling enough to think, to adopt it. and it did fit well with what was happening more broadly in the civilian population. so population. i think it did make sense. but he was not the originator of the notion. >> in the presence of the confederate battle flag. the armored vehicle you showed has a battle flag on the antenna. . you think that was an overt symbol of racist or was that the presence of the symbol of rebelling.
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i don't know. i think that they did have a strategic objective intent. and that was to show that the united states really didn't have control of any single problems in vietnam. i think they were very effective in doing so. so in that respect, i think that there was strategic value for the enemy and i think that they were successful in their effort to show that we were not in control.
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>> do you think the court-martials will be to level down to everybody or do you think that the draft i never cared about that. >> there was no distinction made between draftees and enlistees in vietnam. >> do they now? is there any correlation now looking back on it? >> i forgot what i was going to
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say. i think it's interesting, nobody mentioned the walter cronkite news. and another observation, i don't remember when we were in the field, marines were a lot more afraid of coming back to the states. i had a lot more conversations with people about how they are going to be accepted coming back to the states than they were racial problems. we had those afraid of americans coming back home. do you have any reaction to that? >> well, i do. after eight months, that's why i began flushing the toilet. but that was. i know i heard all the stories about baby killer and they were spit on and so on and so forth. i have never known a single
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marine who can substantiate such a case. >> i was attacked by a mob of protesters. i was in my -- i was attacked by a mob of protesters. i thought i was going to get beaten up. i did get beaten up. >> i was going to say, in my experience when i got off the plane in oakland, this is 1971, i was in a long line of people at the men's room changing into their sievies. they weren't about to go out on the street in their uniforms. you knew what was coming. and you knew to keep a low profile. i wanted to mention the ken burns documentary. i don't know how many people have seen it and reacted to 18 hours of it.
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18 hours of it. i think the part that corresponded to what we're addressing today was about a minute and a half for whatever that says about what the american public wants to know about the down side of all of this. >> this question, talking about the pxs and the expansion of this, i think the question that i think was interesting. if money going to build more of these, that's totally plausible. someone had to be like profiting from this. >> well, some of it is that there are officers whose job it is to provide these services to american military personnel. and they're evaluated based on how successfully they do that. they're in a sense
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professionally incentivised to grow this system. but a lot of base development, that came from base commanders who were very locally concerned about what they could do to improve conditions. and i think it's illustrative of just the phenomenon in contemporary american life where we are really invested in consumption of a way of proving our value. there was a sort of natural tendency that began to improve bases. and then over time it expands to increasingly, you know, isolated and contested corners of the war. so in terms of who benefitted, i mean, i think a lot of guys in vietnam got a lot of cool stuff. my dad brought home our speakers for years, my mother's pearls, tie silk. there is that aspect of it. there were businesses that were obviously providing this. so there were relationships
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between private corporations that were benefitting. some of them were pretty big like those that had huge contracts to provide dairy and food for the troops. there are a lot of big contractors that are benefitting from this. and there was a lot of corruption that we heard about this morning. i think that that was -- it is an indicator of moral because people are saying that while other people are kind of getting over so why shouldn't i get mine. that's indicative of people who kind of lost faith in their institutions and lost faith in the mission, but they are now seeing this as i'm going to get mine while i'm here. if i can't have the kind of war that my fathers and uncles had in world war ii, then i might as well be comfortable. >> by law, profits have to go to the running and improvement of pxs and to moral programs. >> and you hit on it talking about benefitting suppliers.
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there are construction companies building these facilities. >> yeah. >> we're running over. i don't want us to be late for our key note speaker. let's take a break. we'll reconvene in slightly less than 15 minutes. thank you. here's a look at our primetime schedule. starting at 8:10 p.m. eastern on c-span, a debate on gun rights and the right to bear arms. at 8:30 eastern on c-span 2, it's book tv with authors and books on the supreme court. and at 8:00 p.m. on c-span 3, it's american history tv with programs on the life and career of president richard nixon. c-span has live coverage of the 2020 presidential candidates
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at the iowa state fair starting thursday at 1:45 eastern with montana governor steve bullock followed by joe biden. on friday we're live with huljun castro and beto o'rourke. on saturday we're live with senator kamala harris, senator amy klobuchar, kirsten gillibrand, elizabeth warren and cory booker. watch the candidates live at the iowa state fair starting thursday on c-span. watch anytime online at c-span dot oe or listen live using the free c-span radio app. this is a special edition of american history tv, a sample of the compelling history programs that air every weekend on
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american history tv like lectures in history, american artifacts, reel america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span 3. plap. in 1971, president richard nixon ordered the end of the u.s. draft, but it did not officially end until 1973. coming up now, military historians discuss the transition into an all-volunteer force while examining why the president decided to end the draft. they also look at whether it is better for war time moral. held at the university of kansas. this is about an hour. so this is the final panel before our key note address. and it is the second section looking at the ways in which the li


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