Hugh Holmes Norton,
Eleanor Katz, Elliott Macis,
Mary Sue Valenti,
INT: How did you feel when the Vietnam War started and how did you change your views.
HAL: Well Vietnam for me was one of those world events that snuck up on me. Vietnam was of course was not a Pearl Harbor type of thing where it became evident just minutes after the event that war was necessary, and that people would die in large numbers. Vietnam started of course as far back as the fifties, it never got much press, in the early sixties it began to be a topic on the news, commentators think pieces would come on the news, on the radio and commentators would be decrying our involvement, predicting dire things for the South Vietnamese and commenting bitterly about the guerillas who'd never fought fair and that kind of thing. So I began paying attention to it then. Vietnam involvement in the Kennedy years escalated but it was always in the context of advisors and to me that seemed clean, and of course that was the purpose of calling them advisors. most of them I suppose were advisors in a non-combative sense but there were plenty of combat, plenty of combat involvement even before Johnson's administration. Johnson comes in and finishes out Kennedy's term, but there's nothing to wind the Vietnam War down as we know now. At the time he was a very much a up front about his interests in winding down the war, in terms of his speeches to the American people, but in terms of his actions, the actions of those that responded to him why the war was doing nothing but escalating. Most of that was hidden from me, I think or at least I didn't think, oblivious of the clues, again in the middle sixties you know I'm deep into aerospace, we're doing great things with funny little machines, all at Lockheed all of it would seemed consistent to beat back the soviet threat and we saw the Vietnamese guerillas as lackeys of the soviets. It turns out they weren't but we thought that they were at the time. Then shortly after the election, when Johnson beat Goldwater so badly, probably a tragedy that he beat him so badly because it left Johnson with a feeling that he had a mandate. He had a mandate alright, he had a mandate to stay the hell out of Vietnam but he didn't see it that way, he had a mandate to get in, he felt that he could do anything that he wanted, and wanted very much to show the Vietnamese just who wore the boots on his ranch, and shortly after the election there was the air strike in Hanoi at which point a young man named Alvarez was shot down, the first US air loss in the war over what you called hostile territory, over North Vietnam. Alvarez was a young man not much different from me in age, who came Santa Clara just around the block, and he was shot down and paraded though the streets of Hanoi, and I remember very clearly watching that, that episode of Alvarez being paraded through the streets of Hanoi and thinking to myself, that poor boy, he's a boy he's twenty something, that poor man his life has changed forever and god knows when if ever he'll be welcomed back home, and it could be me. It could have been me so easily had a few of my decisions been different. At that point my thinking changed a lot, because suddenly I had a personal identity with people whose fates were all entwined with what went on in Vietnam, and the more treasure that was spent and the more blood that was let and the more machines were destroyed and the lives that were ruined by Vietnam, the less enamoured I became of the national goals and the less enamoured I became of the men who established and pursued those goals and inevitably that eroded my faith and confidence in the aerospace industry which is nothing if not the manifestation of the goals and policies of men in power. The aero space industry likes to think of itself as an entrepreneurial profit making private endeavor, in fact there is only one customer, there is only one purpose, the preparation for the making of war. There is only one kind of activity that goes on and that's technological expansion and development and it's very one dimension
INT: But the cold war ....
INT: But the cold war ....
HAL: Absolutely, I had been favored by every decision that was related to the cold war, from the day I graduated from high school and took my Naval scholarship to Purdue, to the present day as I sit here living on a pension that has been bought and paid for, an annuity paid for by tax payers dollars, and I'll be living off it for the rest of my life. Every opportunity, every life event, professional event, every dollar that's ever come into my pocket has come by virtue of my relationship with the US government in one way or another, and it's a it's a ambivalence that I don't find very comfortable to live with, and whenever the thought crosses my mind as it just now has I squirm and I wish it were otherwise, and it's not and it never will be.
INT: Can you tell me a little of your neighborhood and community activities and about the church and your involvement with the PTA.
HAL: Life in this neighborhood in the early sixties was very good indeed, we all had jobs, we knew we were going to keep them, we all owned our homes, we're all white middle class approaching middle age, the children were very the same size and shape, neighbors up and down the street didn't stay behind their walls, and garage doors the way we do now, we met at the curb, we met in the cul de sac, fourth of July we got out the tables the picnic tables, all the moms made their potato salads and their cold cuts and all the things you do on the fourth of July, the watermelons, it was all out there in the middle of the cul de sac on picnic tables we blocked off the end of the cul de sac, there was no traffic, the kids would play, streamers and their tricycles you know, all decorated and we would have a fine time on the fourth of July with those block parties. Now it only happened a few times when I think about it, but they stick in your mind, they were just marvelous events because they were such a close feeling, the neighbors were all neighbors, and now were just habitating on the cul de sac. The evening of the fourth of July was always a lot of fun, this lot is a very big lot, and in those days it was all grass, all grass and plenty of places to sit and so the fathers would throw their money into some kind of collection, and one of the dads would go off to a local fireworks shop, in those days when they still had fireworks shops, come back with an armload of really good stuff, you know not just the little periwinkles but their really good stuff that would make big noises and lots of smoke and spin and go flame. We'd set up in the back yard with the picnic tables and the chairs and then when it would get dark why we would line all these fireworks up on a board that I'd stretch across ... in the back yard and I would with my propane torch. This is my yard you know my back yard, I with my propane torch would be the master of ceremonies and the children would be out there to position the fireworks and then I'd touch them off with the propane torch and we'd all stand back and this would go on for about twenty minutes of fireworks, which was better than any one of us could have afforded ourselves, right all the neighbors, the back yard was full of maybe twenty or thirty neighbors and it was just a lot of fun. with regard to school, there's an elementary school right round the corner, and that's where all our children went to elementary school, and now here's where it really mattered that Terry was able to stay at home, cold and rainy autumn, winter days the children would of course have a lunch hour but everyone else would be bringing their little tin boxes full of cold sandwiches, but on these cold and wet days Terry would get on her bicycle with hot lunches in her basket you know, and she'd peddle her bicycle three blocks to the school yard and she'd dole out the hot lunches to all of our kids who were, and they knew they were coming you know so they had made quite a thing of it during the morning. All of their class mates were aware that they were going to get hot lunches and Terry would show up on her bicycle with hot lunches and they'd be the envy of the elementary school. Now put yourself in the position of that little child you know, moms a genuine hero, she's just the best mom in the world because here she comes and the steam is still rising from these hot lunches, and everybody else has got their peanut butter and jelly. It must have been fantastic to see mom pull up in the driveway as a child, wonderful stories and it all happened thanks to the US government and thanks to the fact that the single pay check could support a family like hours in those days.
INT: Was the church important to you.
HAL: I am a Protestant by upbringing I'm a, when I go to church these days though I go to Catholic church and have since the day I married Terry. Terry is a catholic, a devout catholic, a very informed catholic and draws enormous strength from her faith and her professional faith and the ritual of the mass. I've always admired and marveled at how much support and strength she seems to draw from that simple ceremony. but I've never felt the pull, but what I have felt is that I'm very comfortable at her side and very comfortable in the company of fellow Catholics through the Queen of Apostles. So I go to Catholic Church and I would like to say I worship my patron saint is Saint Random and I go to church on random Sundays. That's a little family story.
INT: Is the church the backbone of the American society.
HAL: Was the church the backbone of the American society I'm not really prepared to say that, because the church has not been all that important to me personally, but if you were to ask Terry she would say absolutely a godless United States is no nation at all. Did we have a sense that god was on our side, I don't, that was, that was a, an expression that fit more world war two than the sixties and seventies and the Vietnam experience. God seemed to be absent from the field in Vietnam because so many horrible and hideous things were going on, perpetrated by all sides, and there were more than two. Perpetrated by all sides in that war, god was absent in that one and never really came up in the discussion, we were horrified by it and prayed that it would end but it didn't seem that god favored one side or another in Vietnam. World was two, very much, it seemed like you know.