Interviews:

Diem,
Bui

Goodpaster,
Andrew

Hilsman,
Roger

Mcnamara,
Robert

Stockdale,
James

Valenti,
Jack



     
   


INTERVIEW WITH ADMIRAL JAMES STOCKDALE

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INT: Moving on (inaudible) shot down.

JS: Well, that happened thirteen months later. I want to tell you about something else that is material to this story. It's something that I didn't know happened until after I came out of prison, nine years later, I had another year of flying (unintelligible). There was a message that no pilot that got debriefed after that night reported seeing any boats. People say, you didn't see any boats, but others did. Let me tell you, that's not the case at all. Nobody... both carriers sent messages to Washington, no boats sighted. Commodore Herrick, speaking for the destroyers, neither destroyers sighted any boats, that was in the bank. When they realized back there that they had absolutely no proof that there was a justification for those reprisal raids, I wasn't there to hear it, but here's what happened. No pilot spoke up to say, I thought this over and I really think I might have seen a flicker out there. We came home and nobody on the sixth... fifth or sixth... fourth, fifth or sixth, nobody on these three days ever said they saw boats out there. On the night of the sixth - I think this may be the most unethical thing the government came up with that week - I found out nine years later that they had sent a message to all the commanders, top secret, flash precedents, starting out, said, with the words that absolute necessity that we have proof of the attack on the night of the sixth, so that we can present it to the United Nations, or something like that. I've got copies of these messages, they're declassified (unintelligible). But this was put out by the Chairman of the Joint Staff and it was... they said, go back and re-debrief your pilots and what that came down to mean on our ship was re-debrief those that you think you can twist to your will and get 'em to say there were boats, to lie for his country. So, when I came home, I would read these books and I had guys that I'd been flying with out there on the night of the fourth and now they're talking about seeing boats and seeing flashes. And I went to see a lot of 'em and they were a pretty downtrodden lot by that time, it was just terrible to try to bait American fighting men to lie to save some kind of a bureaucratic image that was erroneous from its inception and so what that did is polluted the whole data pool. They got a lot of people, particularly a lot of enlisted men on ships to come to the conclusion that yeah, they'd seen, there was something down there, must have been a torpedo. so that doesn't do us any credit. I think... and so when people come up and they often, they'll say, well, here's the guy that doesn't think there are any boats out there and (unintelligible). It's a matter that only people that reported boats are liars is what I'm saying. I soon left after that, those weeks and I got selected for a wing command. So on my next trip out, I'd be the... not the squadron commander, but the boss of all the squadrons and so I went back and did some training and then came out (unintelligible) and I flew... we had... This was a different higher pace war, you know, we had Rolling Thunder arms and (unintelligible). And I my luck ran out. We got out there in April and my luck ran out in September and I was hit by flak and I landed in the street of a little town, gang tackled, mangled and leg broken, shoulder broken, arrived in (unintelligible) Prison on a stretcher. Three days later after that I began seven and a half years of prison and I was the senior officer in prison for most of it and that was a very interesting experience, one I'll cherish... tales can be told about it. I was in solitary confinement for over four years. I was in leg irons for over two. I was tortured fifteen times, that's total submission. They did that with shutting off your blood circulation with ropes, giving you claustrophobia and pain at the same time, bending you double. They had torture guards who knew how to do that. There was nobody, you know, we say, if y

INT: What was the purpose of that?

JS: To have self-respect... What was the purpose of their torture?

 INT: So, what were they trying to achieve by this?

JS: Well, let me give me my view of why the Vietnamese treated us the way they did. There's a couple of directions they come from. All the Ho Chi Minh type Communists, I've found out there was a head of morality of a kind of a taskmaster sort. We, for part of our stay, we were in the Big Walo Prison where we were in the minority. There were only two Americans in that prison the first winter and that was Robbie Reisner and (unintelligible) and myself and later over a time we came to take all of it for Americans, but their criminals were in there, some of them street criminals, some of them political criminals on political charges, some of 'em... two hundred of 'em were women. Now you have to bow down that you have to show... they were treated just like we were. If... what they're trying to do is to make a man see that his social actions are evil and war is one of them. I mean, but if you are a murderer, or maybe just a hoodlum, you have one on one sessions with your interrogator and then you write confessions and you write apologies and then you do something for atonement. But that's the kind of a discipline and it's kind of like an old eighteenth century schoolmaster in a log school house. I mean, he was trying to shape people up to conform to a certain type and social behavior, so there's that and they'd do that. I mean, they take it seriously. One of the things that they use is criticism/self-criticism, where they'll have the criminals line up and they go around in a circle and they say, you know, I really don't have the right spirit for this country. I am a terrible citizen, I do these disastrous things, I wish I could be cured of that, plehelp me be cured. And the guy next to him says... and it grows, this is like religious ceremonies all over the world. The next guy says, I'm much worse than you, see. But they use all of these old-fashioned religious, I'll call 'em, or manipulative techniques. Then there was another man I mone night, early in that winter of '66. I got kind of marked as the duty intellectual, because I'd studied comparative Marxist thought in graduate school at Stanford, I knew more about Marxism than any Communist I ever saw over there. I would say that Lenin didn't say that, that isn't what he meant by that statement. That was something he said in the revolution and not in the time of the new economic policy. They were four years apart, don't you understand Russian history! Oh, that really griped. But anyway, I was told, you will be taken to see a man tonight and this was by my interrogator (unintelligible). We had to give 'em names, it wasn't disrespectful, their names were secret, we were not to learn any Vietnamese language, 'cos that would make it to our advantage. We'd know what they were saying about us. And, but he said... you... and he went with us and we went to an upstairs place, I was put in the hold in a waiting for this grand man to appear into a bathroom, the only flush toilet I saw in eight years in North Vietnam, I didn't use it, I just stood there. I'd been blindfolded and my pants had rust marks on 'em and leg iron marks and this guy was... even if it weren't... he's got to shape me up to try to make me (unintelligible) some political guy. I went in this room and there were a lot of senior officers with their insignia removed. Now this was a very famous guy in Vietnam and I knew enough about their history to recognize him. He was Win Qok Vien, he was a Paris resident, a Vietnamese Communist, a medical doctor, sort of the guy who led the Resistance to the first Indo-Chinese War, the French... in the... you know, he was the radical anti-war guy of the first war in Paris. I've read some of the articles that he's written and he's the only Vietnamese that I've ever saw had the potential to affect an American mind, it wasn't black magic or anything, but I mean most of 'em were childish, but the way he worked...

(INTERRUPTION - TELEPHONE)

INT: Can you remember where we were?

JS: Yes, I can remember where we were. I was seated on this little stool in... you always have to (unintelligible) below the man interrogating you and he was at the other end of the room, he had long kind of sensitive fingers, he was dressed in civilian clothes, he kind of had this (unintelligible), a thoughtful man. He started out talking about justice and it was obviously out of Plato, I knew, you know, the (unintelligible), it was wonderful to talk to a guy that's Western educated and then he said some very interesting things that I didn't take seriously as my... One of the... So I was shot down on the ninth of September 1965 and I recently read about in November of that year, they had a Gallup poll, ran a survey of two thousand Americans or something, on how had the war come out. This newspaper article said there were no votes for America's abandoning the thing there was no... it was not a possibility. This interview took place about March of '66, so it wasn't too far, but we were confident that this would come out winners in America. The way he got to this point, this punch line, he said in a very calm voice, he said, we know we cannot match armament with you, with America, but the people's will is the determining factor in wars and we will, mark my word, he said, we will win this war on the streets of New York. Now, you asked me why they treated us the way they did. That was another input, because of the commissar of the prison, who I got to study and knew inside out, as he knew me inside out, we were kind of natural opponents, but not hatred, it wasn't the key, neither one of us could afford hatred and we had to beat the other... outsmart the other, but he was a player. He sat on the General Staff, he was a back-bencher, he was a major, we weren't supposed to know that, but people had seen him out in town, but what he was doing was working prisoners up. He had to have intimidated guys on call to go to press conferences, to meet foreign dignitaries, people that were frightened, you know, if you understand fear you never take a guy into public unless you're pretty sure he's scared to death, because he's liable to act up and make a fool of you and people probably lost their jobs, their careers. Another thing I learned was when you're trying to analyze a Communist officer, don't try to analyze him as some sort of a political fanatic. His number one priority is to get promoted, just like Americans, but you could lose, they didn't want it, they were very careful, they learned to take... very careful who they'd expose in public and we had a lot of (unintelligible) guys that really (unintelligible), but that was a high priority item. What he was doing in keeping these people intimidated was a service to the government, because they believed... This man, was you know one of the top rank Communists, I don't know what he was, you know, in Who's Who in Communist theory. So that was another thing. This wasn't just a matter of trying to find some guy that'll run down America, they really worked at getting (unintelligible). That kind of finally petered out at the end, because they were working on the worst sort of customers for that type of treatment, wise, college educated fraternity guys that flew airplanes, you know, one of my friends when he was on a last ditch effort, they said you must tell us the pilots that turned in their wings. And he picked out two guys who everybody in the world except for the Communists knew were comic book characters and when it was put on the front page of the Santiago Union, everybody would know it was a joke. I mean, look how this guy made a fool out of those people over there, these two men, so and so and so and so. So they hammered him, but you see that was big stuff. They were given coverage all over the world on this propaganda. So that was another reason to be tough. And then there was the business in military information my take on that is that I believed them

INT: (Inaudible)

JS: Well, there was one big march, it took place before I could walk, so I missed that. It was '66 and they were pelted and you know, humiliated and marched through town. Again they were asked to lower their heads and be shameful and see, it's the old-fashioned conscience... they tried to bear on the consciences and they really didn't have a good handle on that, but...