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Interview with Paul Critchlow

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Critchlow, Paul ; McKiernan, Stephen


Paul Critchlow is a Vietnam veteran with years of experience in government, finance, and journalism. Critchlow retired from the Bank of America as the head of communications and public affairs. Previously, he served as the chief political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and then as press secretary to Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh. Critchlow has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha and a Master's degree from Columbia University. Paul Critchlow served in Vietnam and he considers this experience the watershed event in his life.  




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McKiernan Interviews
Interview with: Paul Critchlow
Interviewed by: Stephen McKiernan
Transcriber: Benjamin Mehdi So
Date of interview: 28 May 2003

(Start of Interview)

SM: When you think of the (19)60s and the early (19)70s, what comes to your mind when you think of that period?

PC: Well for me it was a, it was a very exciting, it was a very exciting period. It was also clearly; I was very aware that it was a tumultuous period. I was raised and born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. And I remember, I went to high school in the from (19)64 through-through, I am sorry, from 1960 to 1964. So, the Civil Rights Movement was somewhat underway. I was a little isolated from it in you know, Nebraska at that time was a fairly conservative state. It still is, but much more cosmopolitan now than it was then, and I remember certainly reading about all these things and being interested in curious and did not necessarily have a lot of exposure to them. I remember that I actually had no interaction with any-any black people until I was on the high school, track and football teams in uh Omaha Benson High School and competed against them. We had no blacks, had no Hispanics, no Asians at all in my school we were I was basically all white. That was a big school, 2500 kids. And you know, I remember running against them and track Gale Sayers was one of the guys that ran against yeah, he was two years older than me, but I still had two years of overlapping, competing with him and he, he beat me. But then and then when I went to Nebraska University, I got a full-full scholarship to play football there. And of course, there were quite a few African Americans on the football team. And, uh, and yet, there were not still not very many blacks in the school in the university, which was a very-very, it was a big school, there must have been 30,000 kids in the school. And so that was kind of my exposure to them. I absolutely remember, John, uh, John F. Kennedy, getting killed. I was a, uh, I think a sophomore in high school. And then I remember in college Robert F. Kennedy being assassinated in Los Angeles. And I just remember being incredibly bereft by his assassination. I remember being out with a girl who was a go-go dancer in the, from, you know from the one of the downtown Lincoln Nebraska bars. And I remember laying out in the cornfield with her and we decided, you know, we were both upset by his death, and we decided that we would meet the next morning and, you know, drive out to California. And we did not. [laughter] We did not meet, and we did not drive. So, you know, I, I had I had no direct experience with any of it but clearly had some consciousness of it. And I knew as an exciting time I knew the war was starting the Vietnam War was starting to heat up and I had entered the University of Nebraska in 1964. And was a redshirt which meant I had five years of eligibility, so I figured I got five years to avoid the draft and all my friends were thinking the same thing. They were all you know a number of them begin to take steps to-to avoid being drafted. All middle-class kids, nobody wealthy but you know, middle, middle, middle economic strata and the-the, um, a number of them as they got closer to the end of school, join the National Guard or the Air National Guard. Some of them got married. Now they, in every case they were truly in love. They had girlfriends and they got married and nobody you know, as far as I recall, it was not like there was a whole lot of debate on the campus of Lincoln. The only protest I remember is probably in my junior or my third or fourth year, which would have been (19)60. Well, probably in my fourth year, which was (19)67/ (19)68. There were about 50 protesters outside the administration building. And I remember, uh, I remember that irritating me for the first time I think I had a sensation of patriot-patriotism. But at the same time, I was kind of like a lot of kids in the (19)60s, also into the (19)60s, you know, flower child, hippie kind of lifestyle was interesting. You know, an intriguing, of course I never lived it, did not really even do drugs then but I did drink a lot of beer. And so, I remember the, in the, uh, it was just it was sort of a lot of partying, partying, it was going on. And I remember getting, you know, drunk most nights and that I was not, you know, in football training, and even some nights when I was and so I do not know how long you want me to go on, you know.

SM: That-that is good. Okay. When you think of the boomer generation, sociologists will say that the boomer generation are people that were born between 1946 and 1964. Although anybody who knows history knows that some of the leaders of the antiwar movement were born in (19)41, (19)42, (19)43 and (19)44. It is hard to kind of differentiate the two. But do you get a lot? A lot of people today, sociologists oh, George rolls even done it tax the boomer generation as being a very negative generation in American history because of drugs, the sexual lifestyle, and certainly the antiwar movement, the protest, what are your thoughts on the boomers? Do you consider them a group that added to our history in a positive way? Or, or do you feel that some of the things that they did we have really set back our nation and we still have some of these problems today because of what happened in the (19)60s?

PC: Hmm, it is a very, very interesting question. I mean, the, uh, well, the boomer generation was the largest population wave United States, you know, post all the immigration occurred here, but the I do not know, you know, I guess the, the, uh, the, there were- you know, I framed so many things in the context of the war because I went and I can, I am amazed to this day by how when another war is contemplated, the divisions resurface. And I am amazed by how people still write op eds and speak you know about the war from the Vietnam perspective. And when I came to-to-to participate in the forum you conducted you know, the-the fella who was an antiwar-

SM: Larry Davidson.

PC: -Guy, you know, uh, I found myself just really in my gut, angry at him. And knowing that was not rational I mean, intellectually I knew that was not rational. But clearly those-those the-the direction that I ended up going shaped how I view the world and I am sure in the direction he ended up going shaped how he viewed the world and informed him throughout the rest of his life. You know, I believe that is probably a safe statement to make. But on balance, I think that-that is like a subject for a sociological study, really that question but on balance, I think that the boomer generation has created the enormous wealth that we have, and I think it probably is the diversity of backgrounds and beliefs and opinions. That have caused American society to be so innovative, you know, people have not been afraid to voice their views and come up with-with ideas that might have seemed unpopular and they have been willing to go ahead and, you know, put their money where their mouth is or put there, you know, put their lives on the line and or, you know, just to state how they feel. I think that is probably better than having grown up in a, you know, homogenous culture that would have had everybody thinking more alike, so I mean, I think [phone rings] I think on balance, it is probably stimulated the, the country's economic and social progress. [phone continues to ring]

SM: Did you want to answer? This leads right into a perfect segue into the next question. What are the qualities you most admire in boomers? And what are the qualities you least admire? Again, from your vantage point, yeah, sir.

PC: Hmm I think the boomers came from a very rich environment in terms of the conflicts that they grew up, you know, in their formative years with the fact that they came from the World War II generation you know, they are the offspring of the World War II generation you know, the greatest generation as broke all called it. I was born on August 6, 1946, you know, exactly one year after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima. And so, I was always aware of the dropping of the bomb and of course, in the (19)50s we went through the you know, the, uh, the Cold War, we went through the-the bomb shelters. And so, we had that. We grew up with that, in our for-formative years we grew up with, with that sort of overhanging fear and anxiety of nuclear war and worrying about the stability and personal trustworthiness of our leaders and leaders of Russia. You know, and so, you know, the-the and I and, and then to go into the (19)60s when I say worrying about the trustworthiness of our leaders, I think having confidence in the trustworthiness of our leaders through the (19)50s and then hitting the (19)60s. And having that confidence undermined by questions about the prosecution of the war, whether it was political, you know, questions about the establishment. I mean, we were children of-of a very establishment center, you know, way of life. And all of those feelings and attitudes became challenged in the (19)60s, you know, by the, by the civil rights movement, and I am talking now from the perspective of a shelter, white boy, no, without a lot of exposure to a black population. There was one in Omaha there was a and they lived in one part of Omaha. And there was not really a whole lot of integration, you know, so I mean, I was just not exposed to it. And then to have all of that have that sort of, you know, that sort of set of attitudes, that everything is the way that I am used to it having all that being challenged and undermined in the (19)60s and probably the (19)70s. I think required boomers to become more adaptable and forced us to maybe be more thoughtful about our own ideological beliefs. And so, we were about you know, I-I think it was the one I that was what I talked about when I talked about the context of where we came from, and-and what we went through. Gave us gave us an ability to-to be more adaptable to, to different ways of thinking and different ways of looking at things and- [doorbell rings]

SM: Right in the middle of that questionnaire regarding the quality you most admire or at least admire and antics.

PC: Yeah, I, I think the boomers demonstrated both admirable and not so admirable qualities. I think the boomers unfortunately also became known as rather self-centered and sort of became the, you know, the- because there was such a period of economic prosperity. They got a reputation for being a little materialistic, you know, the me generation like but I also think that they they-they have stablish you know, a tremendously much more informed kind of body politic or electorate, if you will. That has, uh, I mean, I, to me, what is amazing is you really had during Vietnam, kind of roughly half the population favored the war and half the population did not favor the war. And the debate and the divisions were very sharp, and you were kind of either forward or again. And if you think about how the body politic has evolved in the United States, you know, the parties are almost constantly shifting back and forth in terms of control and elections. So, so there is there are there are rooms there is room for a sort of the more left leaning ideology and the more right leaning and ideology and it is, it just never ceases to amaze me that the It is- stays consistently so, you know, for decades, you know, for down through the decades since the (19)60s and (19)70s. And I think that, you know, that has to have come from the from the divisions and the different-different experiences that people had. You know, as you said, everybody was touched by Vietnam one way or another. Right, everybody, you know, I mean, just was-

SM: Some of the books will say that 15 percent of the population was actually involved in some sort of an activist movement, but that the other 85 percent effective their subconscious in some way. So, the whole 70 plus million boomers were in some way affected.

PC: By oh, definitely.

SM: By-by Vietnam. I like your thoughts on the impact that boomers have had on their kids. Because I think this is interesting, because I just my perception is once your thoughts as I looked at some of the young people from generation X, which was the generation the foul in the (19)90s, and now generation Y, which I believe is your son's, my nephews group too, um, our they as activist minded as the people from the (19)60s that it was almost like when they look at the (19)60s or the seven, early (19)70s, they do look upset with boomers because they are nostalgic for they wish they have lived during that time. Because, of course, this is before 9/11 is really yeah. 9/11. And certainly, has changed everything. But your thoughts on whether boomers have passed on their activism to their kids in following generations.

PC: I mean, boy, that is a tough one. You know, I mean, it is like- I think boomers, I really can only speak from personal experience, but I think boomers have tended to pass on whatever their basic attitudes and ideologies were. I passed on a stronger belief in authority in authoritarianism and establishment way of life. My wife is 10 years younger than me. So, she is a half generation, you know, removed. Born in 1956. She has always been very activist and always very, very challenging of government and authority and she has passed that on to the kids. So, there has been a little struggle for the little bit of a struggle for the soul of our children's souls of our children. And each of them has picked up my daughter is probably more- I am sure there must be some conflicting impulses there, but my daughter is more is more activist and more liberal, more left leaning and she is, she will challenge authority, you know all the time, and yet likes the comforts provided by the more establishment way of life. My son is probably more like me, and more, more respectable, more respectful of authority. And-and yet he is also not afraid to ask questions, but he does it with he does it without the edge that my daughter does. So that is a tough one. It is hard for me to generalize about that. I do not know how to do that. It is good.

SM: It is good because you from an individualistic point of view, right. Yeah, generalists? Well, I think that learned from working with college students that you cannot generalize.

PC: No.

SM: You cannot and be around a group one year and then the next year is totally different. And when I was years ago used to say every 10 years, you can see the difference between generation now it is every four years.

PC: I do think there was a generation X which is, you know, I mean, I had him fairly late. So, I mean, I also have a 28-year-old son by a first marriage. But I was not around we set we divorced. And that generation was known as the slacker generation. And they were more into me they were more into just getting by. But now I see you know, now I see him come, you know, he has come out of that. And he is-he is a, I think we are more I think boomers, most boomers tend to be more tolerant of experimentation by their kids. Because they did not, you know, I mean, there is nothing, there is very little that I did not do. I mean, I, you know, you know, was very interested in sexuality. You know, I think everybody is, but you were more free to experiment with it. I was more likely to experiment with drugs not the way the generation X I think got into it more, I believe. Well, that is not true. I think there is quite a bit of drug use in the (19)60s. But anyway, I cannot remember the basic question now. [laughter]

SM: Sure, man, let me show this to you talk about-about the antiwar movement. Could you comment on your thoughts on those individuals who are involved in the antiwar movement and secondly, how what kind of impact did they have on ending the war. I interviewed him. I have had some unbelievable mixed responses to this question. To see your thoughts on the antiwar movement.

PC: Well, first of all, you know, as a veteran, and relating more to the way I was treated well, relating the two things that I can specify one when I was there. First of all, I mean, I think, you know, I volunteered for the draft. You know, I did not enlist I literally called my draft board and said, I am ready to be drafted even though I had another year of college eligibility. And what happened was, I just got I broke my leg and football, and you know, began drinking even worse and just sort of decided, you do not want to play football anymore and you are screwing off in school. You know, and I knew that Vietnam was going to be the defining experience of my generation. And I made a conscious decision, if that is what it is, I would rather go be there and see it, than to oppose it or avoid it. And it was not out of any great sense of patriotism at all. Steve, it was much more out of a sense of adventure, and curiosity. You know, what, what, what is this thing? I mean, how can this be, you know, I mean, you saw a lot of images on TV and read about it, but it was sort of like, you know, I want to go see, I want to be there, I want to be at this, I want to be at the center of action. Now, there are two ways to do that. You know, one was to be in the antiwar movement. One was to be in the war. And so, I am very careful to explain that I am, I am not a great patriot. And then I went there thinking, oh my God, I have to defend my country. I mean, I was aware that there was opposition to the war that there were questions about how the politicians were conducting it. And part of it was just to escape, you know, an unfortunate, you know, sort of a downward spiral that I was in I just I just wanted to get away from Nebraska and get out and get away from football and get away from the, you know, the-the defeatism that I felt, you know, from breaking my leg, you know, I was just sort of like depressed, you know? So, I uh-

SM: Did you fear losing your life. Did you when you want to be in the center of action?

PC: I was, I was aware, but I did not care. I mean, it was like, I mean, I truly just thought, you know, I wanted the experience, but it was more of an experience seeking was not thrill seeking, it was just, I want to see what this is all about. If it is, I absolutely knew, as you say, I knew at that time that it was going to define my generation I just knew it and I and I decided I do not want to be on it. I want to be there and experience what it really is more than I want to be on the other side opposing it. Okay, so. So, I went over, and the first specific thing is that I remember hearing and reading, you know, and I knew because I went over in (19)69 hearing and reading that, I mean, the (19)69 is when troops started to get withdrawn. You will recall that was sort of the turning, turning point of the of the war. And so, I knew that the politicians were starting to react to the antiwar protests. So, when I went over, morale was not-not very good. And I attributed that to the antiwar protesters and in particular to the kids on college campuses. So immediately, the, the, you know, the first time that I saw an American, you know, get killed. My anger toward the enemy became very great. And I did in fact, equate the enemy with communists and, uh, and then I wanted to, you know, and then I felt great anger toward the antiwar protesters. Then I came back, you know, badly wounded, almost died and was treated, you know, very badly and with great disrespect by the moment I came back, I mean, it was just unbelievable. I mean, my-my friends would not return my phone calls, they would all virtually I would say 95 percent of my friends had avoided the war one way or the other. Old girlfriends would not even come to the phone when I called. I remember going to a party. And these were not particularly antiwar people, but I sort of lumped them all together. I remember going to a party I was on crutches. And it was in a big room and the whole room just gradually moved away from me. And all of a sudden, I was standing there alone in a corner on crutches and just thinking, oh, my God, I just these people hate me. I feel terrible. They did not want to talk to me, you know, I mean, and-and so what did I do? Then I healed and I went back to undergraduate school and finished up my undergraduate degree, and then I went to, uh- but I had a deep, you know, antipathy for the protesters. And then I went to Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. And on the very first night that I went to campus for the first organizational meeting, there was a huge, so now we are talking 1970, (19)70, uh, 1970 like 19- Fall of (19)70 there was a Huge antiwar protest right in the quadrangle, and I had to walk through it to get to my first sort of class meeting, the incoming class. And I just remember thinking, you know, I want to kill these motherfuckers. And yet I was also terrified that they would find out I was a Vietnam veteran. Right. I was the first Vietnam veteran to go to the Graduate School of Journalism. And so, I sort of put my jacket over my head and just sort of snuck through the group. You know, there was thousands of and, and I and I literally thought to myself, you bastard, you fucking spoiled you know, college kids do not understand that you are causing people to die, causing Americans to die by not supporting them. Those are my feelings. Okay. So, and then I hid the fact that I was a Vietnam veteran for six months. Nobody in my class knew it. Until finally after about six months, I got to know people well enough, let them know that I was a veteran. And I listened to all the antiwar, crap and rhetoric. And just I was just full of anger, you know, most of the time. And yet, because I had four years of undergraduate school before I went into the army, you know, I did not go over as a 17-year-old or 18-year-old draftee, I mean, I went over to draftee, but I was already 20. You know, 23. So, and, and I had an intellectual understanding, which was strengthened over, you know, over time that the antiwar protests were, in fact, helping to bring about an end to the war. And so, I knew overall that was good. But as you say, the defining factor for me in terms of how I felt about the antiwar movement was that they disrespected- [audio get cut off]

SM: Did you were a military garb?

PC: No, I never know I never want military garb.

SM: Did Professors treat you when they found out you were a vet. I have heard mixed stories about professors.

PC: Well, there were some, there were some absolute super left-wing professors there and I think I just avoided you know, like I say I was it was only it was a nine-month program, the Graduate School of Journalism. And for six months I mean, I just avoided talking to them about it. But I hated it. I still performed you know, all right. I got threw in blah, blah, blah. And I became more because I became interested in journalism in really as a result of my experience in Vietnam, then I began to read a lot more. And I became acutely aware that the antiwar movement in the end, probably was intellectually understood that it was a positive force. And but you have to separate the emotional and the intellectual. Right. And I have always done that. And, uh, sorry I cannot remember what the basic question was.

SM: No, but you covered up beautifully. One of the things that is interesting, you probably remember this as a young person to that. I can remember this on college campuses. You would go to a rally; you would be in a class. The Boomers would always say, a lot of students would say we are the most unique generally in American history, we are going to change the world. There is nothing like us. And there will be nothing like this. No generation that will follow us and we are going to make the world a better place. We are going to solve all the problems of the world or an end racism, sexism, you know, all kinds of things, peace in the world. Was that boasting? You thought? You heard that when you were a young person? Oh yeah, I heard it all the time when I was a student, no-no. And, and now, boomers are all in their mid (19)50s. Mm hmm. And so just kind of reflecting again, maybe-

PC: Yeah, I think I well, okay. I mean, I think there was a real sense of idealism. You know, especially on the college campuses. And again, you know, we have to remember we are talking about from our experience, you know, we were in college. There were a lot of boomers who were not- did not go to college, but I cannot speak for them. I do not really know. But their worlds were like, but the, there was the idealism of the (19)60s, as I said, the flower power you know, the tune in, the drop out, tune out, tune in or whatever it is, you know that the thing was, yeah, Timothy Leary, and all that there was a, a sense that there could be, there was a sense that that peace was a, an ideal to be achieved, and that there was a sense of individual empowerment to be able to achieve peace or at least reduce or eliminate war if individuals simply decided not to participate. And so, there was that there was a sense of power and that you could do important things and yeah, I mean, I think it was, you know, I met I think there was that sense. And I, I think boomers today have moved into all, you know, boomers today are in all these positions of leadership, partly by virtue of their age, but I do not think there is any lack of, you know, confidence that social ills and, you know, other major, very tough problems cannot be tackled. I mean, I think that is, I think that is sort of intrinsic in the boomer generation. By the way, I forgot to mention that. Another thing that caused me to decide to go to Vietnam was that my father was a pilot during World War II, in the Army Air Corps, and he trained on B-29 bombers. And, but unfortunately, he was [phone rings] unfortunately- I mean, I say unfortunately says what you think. I mean, he, just as he finished his training, the war ended. And so, he did not ever go overseas. And that always bothered him. And they regret it that he never had a chance to go. And so, I think that was in the back of my mind, you know, you have a chance to go have this experience. So, you should do that, you know. And I wanted it to make him proud of me. Did I miss your last question?

SM: No, you understand the culture, some of these? Talk about the importance of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, and the whole concept of healing. I think, to me, what was described, and others did, and the creation of that wall is set an example for everyone in terms of healing. But I would like your thoughts on as the wall itself from your personal feelings, the effect that it has on veterans today. And also, the effect that it has on those people who were the antiwar movement. And I have probably read stories too about members of the antiwar movement and Larry Davidson, who said, you are right, was down in Washington with his son and his son, his son is only the same age as your son. He said dad what did you do in the war? And you know, Larry never really talked much about it, because he is a Messer. And so, he had to explain what he did, because there is so the basic question is, what-what impact has the Vietnam Memorial had on Vietnam veterans, the people who probably worried about the antiwar movement and the nation as a whole and how and in terms of healing?

PC: Yeah, well, I believe the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is has had an enormously positive and very powerful effect on the Vietnam veterans themselves. I remember when it was first being debated discussed 20 years ago, 20 years ago. Yeah. I did not really, I still had not fully, quote come out about being a Vietnam veteran. Because I felt sort of, I mean, I was proud of that of my individual service. But it was not something that I talked about a lot. I guess that stems from, you know, the reaction when I came back, you know, and from my friends and from, you know, going to Colombia and you know, I mean, it just was, it was it was a nascent feeling for me to have any sense of pride in it because, you know, the war was so widely condemned as a bad thing. You know, and-and the- and, you know, the other part of it is, I think you come to terms with what you actually did, you know, in the war yourself, and I was in a lot of combat, and I did, you know, participate in some killing and, and, and I think that, you know, there were some really terrible, you know, incidents and situations and most of us, you know, who were in combat. You know, you carry that with you, so you feel you feel a little guilty about what you did, too. And so, the-the, the drive to create the wall I-I sort of hung back from it. I sort of watched it, but I did not get emotionally involved in it ever until years after it was built. In fact, it was years before I went saw it.

SM: Yeah, I know several vets who have not gone yet.

PC: Yeah, and-and then I remember when I first did go to see it. God it was like it was only maybe it was probably about must have been about 12 years ago or something like that. It was about eight years old. And I remember just walking down into that wedge, you know that and just thinking, oh my god, this is just overwhelming. I mean, it was just so powerful and-and it was just it was in fact very, very healing and I went back to my hotel room. I was down there on business, and I immediately called, you know, Clearview Florida and got directory assistance for my best friend in the army who was killed their Roland dePaolo. And, and I had gone to his home, I knew his family and, but I had never ever contacted them ever, ever since. You know, coming back myself, and I called her and I talked to his mother and I said, I just want to know, I just went to the wall, and I found Roland’s name and I just, you know, I just, you know, I was thinking that was the first time you would ever yeah, wow, first time I had ever contacted her even though I knew them and I knew where they lived and I had been to their home because he and I used on leave from Fort Benning used to go there to his home. But that was how conflicted I was, you know, not wanting to deal with things that went on. Just not wanting to deal with any of it you know, other than sort of distantly and emotionally and. And so then of course, I began to go, you know, every time I went to Washington, and so it has become it became enormously healing but I did not know anybody in the in the move- I mean, I did not know anybody in the movement. I got interested in vet veterans. I was active in Veterans Affairs, but it was mostly because of politics because I was big former military. So, I did it as because I had entree, and I could get the veterans to line up behind Thornburg. But I was not really emotionally. And by the end, by the way, it was all World War Two, you know, and Korean vets, you know, it was it was the American Legion types Basically. The Vietnam veterans, or the Vietnam Veterans of America had just formed up and I sort of, they were sort of like, there were some real crazies who started that thing up and I saw I sort of kept my distance from them.

SM: Bobby Muller one Bobby.

PC: Bobby Muller, who I knew now I have known I have talked to and, and, and a guy named Dave Christian, remember him in Philadelphia, he was kind of an operator. But anyway, so-so the war so the wall became a tremendous-tremendous healing mechanism for me personally. And then I was able to deal with it and you know, I love going there and of course subsequently, I got involved with the people on the corporate advisory board. And actually, I actually got involved through the women's Vietnam Memorial that was how I got involved because I somebody asked me to meet with Diane and I helped help raise money in Maryland. So, and then the more I got into it, you know, the more I got, you know, then I met Scruggs and Right. And I just got more and more drawn into it, you know, and it was just an enormously healing device for me and through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation, then of course, I got invited back to, to go with a delegation to Vietnam, a heck of an experience on the 25th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. And that was just an extraordinary opportunity to go back. And in the article that I wrote in American heritage, you will see that I, my wife, Patty, said to me several years earlier, you know, I think you should go to Vietnam, and I will go with you. And she said, so my gift to you is, you know, we will go to Vietnam together and I said, oh, that was nice, but I did not really want to go, you know, I just always found reasons not to go. Then when I got this invitation. All of a sudden, there was no reason not to go and I went.

SM: How many people went all together?

PC: There were about I think about 20 business, businessmen in the delegation, you know, which was led by Jan Scruggs and James Kinsey. And, you know, people I knew, just absolutely astonishing experience and I found the battlefield where I was wounded. And that was, I found the exact spot. I mean, I did a lot of tremendous amounts of research again, which is all documented in that article, but-

SM: Still look the same.

PC: No, it was built up. No, it was jungle, and it was farmed. It was being farmed when I got there. So, I actually it was easier for me to spot than I thought because I knew that topography. I knew the map. And through research I found, I knew it was Hill 102 and I found the hill and I found the spot and it was really just that to me that was it was the probably the, the most emotional and greatest moment of my life was to find that spot on the battlefield to find the battlefield. And then finally, when I say spot generally, you know, the, the place where I was almost killed.

SM: If had not been for visiting that wall, you never would have been there.

PC: I would never have, would have never gone there. And I just would not, well, I might have gone on my own, but probably not. You know, so.

SM: I have a question here on trust. We all know the history about Lyndon Johnson, and, uh-

PC: Is that really going to affect your tape.

SM: It might I am not sure. [they pause to fix the audio] Do you think of Lyndon Johnson you think of Richard Nixon think of Watergate you think of Vietnam. You had mentioned earlier in the interview about during the (19)50s. We looked at our leaders as young people, there was a sense of trust. But then we get into the (19)60s and there is a lack of tremendous lack of trust because of what was being told to us about the Vietnam War. And McNamara and the body count on the other things and certainly Richard Nixon and Watergate kind of a lack of trust in leaders was something that many people in fact a lot of the boomer generation looks on that period that is why I think they oftentimes continue to distrust leaders. Your thoughts on the- what that is really done to America? Because you know, you live you work in the corporate world, and you have seen it in recent years about people, young people, we are always looking at young people and how they look at leaders, whether it be in the corporate world, whether they be in Washington, DC or whoever they are, university presidents, and whatever. What-what did that have? What effect did that have on the movie regeneration returned to their psyche as they raise their own children and then we head into days here because you talked about the boomers are a fluid group, yet they grew up around leaders that they did not trust especially in their formative years.

PC: I would guess that it-it has generally had a negative effect on-on American society certainly on the formations of the sustainability of different administration's okay. Watch your tape or something. I you know, I think that the-the boomers are somewhat more ready and always have been too ready to believe bad things that are said about their leaders as a result of having been having grown up in the (19)60s. And so, you know, in in the days of Eisenhower and JFK, you know, there was enormous confidence. Now, it is a little naive not to not I mean, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had a lot to do with that theory, by their behaviors, so, but that is what I am talking about, you know, so Nixon was probably driven to do the things he did, you know, by-by, by fear of, by, obviously by a paranoid fear of not being trusted. So, you know, it there is probably there is probably too much skepticism on the part of boomers, about their leaders, the leadership of their country and the leadership of their states and cities. They are too ready to believe bad things they are in and that in and of itself creates a market for the media and for political, for other political people to make negative statements about people in office, or people running for office. It is a very, I mean, politics has become very negative and very poisonous. And I think that has, you know, that must have some of its roots in the, in the willingness of the body of the major part of the body politic. to, you know, to believe all the negative stuff or to want to hear it, you know, I mean, it is like, a lot of the negative stuff is real. Irrelevant to governing.

SM: When you look at the media today and how they looked at some of the corporate leaders that have gone down? Yeah. And, you know, what is the media's role in all this too? And certainly, basically, what you are saying then is that some of the individuals that are our age, who are in the antiwar movement or against the leaders, there are, are not easy targets, but are individuals that believe, immediately when they hear the stories about the corporate leaders, right, I think about the willing to generalize the generalization again, which we can never get into analyzing all corporate leaders, because the bad actions of a few.

PC: Exactly that is what I think you said it better. And it could I mean, it is just there is just this tremendous sort of susceptibility to believing that if a few people are bad at actors that the whole corporate scene or the whole governmental scene is full of bad actors, that it is that it is intrinsically corrupt. And that is just that is not usually I believe that most, the 99 percent of all the people in government public service, you know, are more in leadership are good and decent people. But there is a willingness to generalize, the opposite, you know, fan by the media, which, I mean, the media would not be fanning out if there were not an appetite for it. So, I am not blaming the media. I am blaming the appetite. You know-

SM: I have names here that I have some names here that I want to read off and just some quick responses and your thoughts on these individuals, just your personal opinions. And these are people of the era, right. Tom Hayden.

PC: Tom Hayden, you know I have a very negative had a very negative view of him which stayed negative which is still negative because I know I know his activities as a state senator in California.

SM: Jane Fonda.

PC: I do not use the word hate lightly, but I hate her. I mean, the picture of her sitting in an anti-aircraft. Battery was a-a, an North Vietnamese Army helmet on her head in Hanoi is just infuriating beyond belief. I think she committed the ultimate act of treason. She had no standing to do it. You know, she no standing to do it so. So, I sort of suspend my belief in free speech when it comes to Jane Fonda. And I link her with Tom Hayden. So, they were married. You know-

SM: There was a slogan in Washington DC this past week. And then I saw him It says, I will forgive Jane Fonda when the Jews forgive him. I would say that was amazing. And it was a big sign. And it was, it was right as people were walking in to get tickets. Yeah.

PC: I do not know if I would go that far because- but I-I-I just despise what she did I despise, by the way, now you are getting my real innermost feelings because I despise celebrities. All celebrities who make, uh, anti-war statements who have no standing whatsoever to do that except by virtue of their celebrity. If you give me a you know, if you give me a-a university professor who has studied history, and he opposes the war in Iraq, I will bet, that I respect but if you give me some of these actors who stood up, most of whom never went to college, you know, Susan Sarandon, they can all kiss my ass are concerned, I would not even go to a movie to see him. But other than that, I do not feel strongly.

SM: It is okay. Just-just quick thoughts on Lyndon Johnson.

PC: Lyndon Johnson, I think was I have you know, I have mixed reaction mixed feelings about him. I mean, he, I think was he inherited a war situation I think he was a victim of his own pride and, but it was also somewhat tied in his in his pride in America, that he did not know how to extricate America from that war with honor. But I also give him enormous credit for advancing the civil rights agenda of the country. And I think that history is looking more kindly on him. And I think he demonstrated enormous courage not running for another term.

SM: It is interesting. There is some, everybody seems to dwell on the foreign policy of Vietnam. The Lyndon Johnson brand new book just came out on Lyndon Johnson and NATO. Johnson in Europe and others are starting to look more about other things that he did in the world besides the Vietnam era, which is when. Bobby Kennedy.

PC: Bobby Kennedy, in many ways, though, he had an antiwar bent. He was so articulate, you know, that I admired him. And in fact, when he came in Nebraska University to speak, he had a huge reception, even though it is a very conservative place, he had an ability to inspire and uplift people.

SM: Certainly did, boy did I was I was a student in New York at that time campaigning.

PC: And also, he was, you know, the keeper of the Kennedy flame. And you know, and I, like everybody else. I idolized JFK because he was young and vibrant. And he showed he demonstrated courage on some bad pay in the Bay of Pigs in the Cuban missile crisis and all that sort of thing. So-

SM: Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party.

PC: I have very negative feelings about them because you know, they were trying to undermine the rightful process of government.

SM: Benjamin Spock.

PC: And they resorted to violence to do it. Right. I have by the way; I have completed and total respect for conscientious objectors who stood up for their beliefs? In other words, if they went to Canada, then I do not have respect for them if they declared themselves and went through the process, you know, the government process for dealing with that. Or went to jail or whatever. I have a lot of respect for them. You know, I do not, I do not, I have no disrespect to them at all.

SM: It is interesting. One of my best friends served two years. He was a conscientious objector. And he had two years up in newfound land and he did not like it down, but he paid the price for it. Yeah, I need your choice in two years now. Dr. Benjamin Spock.

PC: You know, I heard he was antiwar. I do not have strong feelings about him. One way or the other I mean, I would probably give him a break on the grounds that he was, he was, he was interested in children in life and things like that. So-

SM: The Berrigan brothers, Daniel and Philip.

PC: Um. I did not like them. They were radical left wing cuckoo birds.

SM: Andy Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

PC: Radical left wing cuckoo birds. And my-my feeling about a lot of these people who-who position themselves as leaders of this movement was great flamboyance was that they were, you know, in it for themselves. They were promoting themselves rather than their cause. And by the way, I do not know if that is fair or not, but that is just my feeling.

SM: But one of the things about Abbie Hoffman, he committed suicide I remember this taking was in (19)87 or (19)89 forgot what year it was zip in Bucks County and apart is an amazing story. He lives in Bucks County in an apartment. He had $2,000 to his name and he made a lot of money in his life. He gave all his money to causes He wrote a note when he committed suicide and he said, basically, no one is listening to me anymore. And to see he had left even involved in the environmental movement, and even on the Phil Donahue show when he came hiding it. He just wanted to show the world that he cared about a lot of issues besides the war. Yeah. And, and well, it was interesting and-

PC: So, he paid a price then too.

SM: Yeah, he got upset with Jerry Rubin because he moved to California and became a businessman. Timothy Leary.

PC: Oh, he was just a quack.

SM: How about Ralph Nader?

PC: Snake oil salesman, Ralph Nader. I actually have a little more respect for him because he buttressed all of his statements with research, these know even if I disagree with the reason. And I think he was probably a necessary force at the time to-to, you know, he came into being for a reason.

SM: And pretty consistent throughout as well.

PC: He really has he stayed true to his own ideology, and he has not been afraid.

SM: Daniel Ellsberg.

PC: I think he did a courageous thing in terms of getting the truth out, you know, the Pentagon papers and all that took a lot of courage to do that.

SM: George McGovern.

PC: I thought McGovern was one of the biggest phonies, and I met him. I covered him as a reporter. He is one of the biggest goddamn ponies I ever met. He would go around and talk about you know, neighborhoods looking like bombed out areas and you know, and I just got so sick of it because he said that about everything that he saw and, and I think he was a pilot or something.

SM: Yeah, 28 missions over-

PC: Yeah. So, I-I mean, I am happy for him, but I felt like he was exploiting his-his own war experience.

SM: And again, Hubert Humphrey.

PC: Yeah, you know, I mean, I have, you know, he is pretty nice. The happy warrior. I did not, you know, he just he was. I do not know; it was just interesting. I had no strong feelings about it.

SM: Yeah, a couple more names. And then part two final questions. Certainly, President John Kennedy.

PC: Well, yeah, I mean, I have like, like everybody else, I had a highly favorable impression of him and, and was felt deeply crushed, you know, when he was killed, and did not understand at the time as I do now that he is the one who got us really into the war. So now there are all sorts of stories being written about, you know, would he have been smart enough to get us out? You know, the wood before we went so far. And who knows, nobody really knows.

SM: It is interesting. It was mentioned that because when, the hour before they got into the car, when Eisenhower was leaving and President Kennedy was coming in, they were talking about Vietnam. And that is something that President Kennedy wanted to keep, because Eisenhower was involved and still being linked to Vietnam because of the support of the French interest. And so, and if you remember my office, so Harry Truman, by when Ho Chi Minh sent that letter to him, after the war, about trying to create a friendship there, so the links between all of our presidents from Truman and Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and then for sure Ford, truly linked to Vietnam.

PC: That is true.

SM: Martin Luther King Jr.

PC: I had a very favorable impression of him. And still do. I mean, I think he was a very inspiring leader.

SM: What are your thoughts on he was one of the few civil rights leaders that was against the war.

PC: And he was off, I felt like he had the moral authority to do it. You know, I mean, he was so eloquent. And I do not remember that. I am just giving you my feelings now. I cannot remember. Right. You know, I do not remember anything that he said about it. But, you know, I think his opposition to some extent was based on the fact that it was young and poor people who were being drafted, and that, that was a valid concern. I as I said, I have a lot of resentment still of my friends in high school and college who avoided the draft through manipulations.

SM: Have you ever, have you ever met any of those kids that shied away from you that day when you came home around the crunches if you are going back to Nebraska Yeah, you know ever talk to them about what they did to you.

PC: No-no, I have never talked to them just-just not spoken of-

SM: But they talk to you now.

PC: I mean, you know, casual I do not I do not hang out with them. But-

SM: Robert McNamara.

PC: Well, I did not have much I had very little impression of him at the time. Now I have generally unfavorable impression of him just I mean, that is with the benefit of historical hindsight. You know, where he is concluding that his- where he finally I guess conceded, that is the buildup that he championed was flawed. The logic that he employed was flawed. And no one really understood the depth of willingness of Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese people to resist forever. They were willing to sacrifice every single male and many young females, you know, to, you know, I mean, they, their desire to be free, is historic.

SM: Let us get right into your thoughts right now in terms of why did we lose the war? In brief synopsis your thoughts on why we really truly lost this war.

PC: I am not 100 percent okay, let us say we probably, I believe that we could have subjugated that country if we had brought the full force of American society to bear on the effort, I think it would have been unbelievably costly in terms of American lives. And even more costly to use the metaphor you damn, damn, damn near would have had to pave the country over. But it could have been done, you know. So, I say that the end of winning the war would have been awful probably would have ended up being too costly. However, having said that, we have hugely crippled our ability because of political considerations. We hugely handicapped our ability to wage the war effectively, in my opinion, and I base this on my own real experience, because I was a fourth observer attached to an infantry company, and on many on numerous occasions, when we came under attack, I could not respond with artillery until there had been a series of clearances that had gone all the way to a village or provincial, D at South Vietnamese chief. And as a result, I think we suffered more casualties and, you know, we were just always crippled [inaudible] I often felt like we were fighting with one hand tied behind her back. And so, I do not know if that answered your question. But-

SM: One of the points that, uh-

PC: But the real reason I think we lost is because of the Vietnamese people themselves. Ho Chi Minh himself said in interviews we have always throughout our history, with various quote, colonial powers, you know, trying to occupy our country, and they had the Japanese they had the Chinese they had the French they had the Americans; you know, we have all these powers have always underestimated our willingness to sacrifice. And they would just keep sending people into the killing machine forever. I mean, they were they had limitless patience. So, I think we lost because you know, the will of the Vietnamese people to not be occupied was simply too strong.

SM: Getting back to the names here, but I have read quotes that when middle America finally money gets to war, Ohio, Nebraska, Kansas, that was when the war was over really was ending. Because of the you can debate with whatever you want to on whether the antiwar movement was the reason why the war ended. When middle America when sons and daughters start coming home with body bags, and you agree with that, the middle America-

PC: I think, politically, that was probably the final straw. I think the-the campuses and the East coast and the West coast. You know, went against the war fairly quickly, early on. But yeah, I think Middle America, I define it more broadly, because I think the culture of Middle America, so to speak, is also to be found in upstate New York, you know, Pennsylvania in places like that. And so, I think that they, uh, yeah, I think, I think that turned it for Nixon. I think when Nixon said, oh, my God, I am losing, losing, you know, I am losing. I am sure they were doing polling back then. And I am sure when-when the polling started showing that, you know, more conservative Republican voters were turning against them because of the casualties. And the feeling there was no end to it. I mean, it was it was viewed as a quagmire.

SM: Reading that we used to couple thoughts on Richard Nixon.

PC: Well, I think clearly one of the great tragic figures in our history, um, had a great, you know, intellectual capacity. But was, in fact, power, mad and paranoid and was so scared by his earlier defeats that you know, he just could not have, he just went overboard, you know, he crossed the line in terms of trying to win reelection. And, uh, I actually-actually this is sort of an aside, but I actually flew with Henry Kissinger on-on the corporate jet Maryland's corporate jet I took him out to he was giving a speech. It was just me and him in a corporate jet. And I told him that he met with the, uh, the Vietnamese foreign minister, I cannot remember the name right now, three days before I was wounded in secretly in Paris. It will be Acme no doubt he is a general I know it will-it will come back to me. I have got it in my one of my books somewhere. And I said to him, I said to Kessinger, I said, Dr. Kissinger, I said, if I wish you just started earlier, because if you had maybe I would not have been wounded. And he just kind of looked at me at all. All he said, “I am sorry, I did not start earlier”. I mean, it was a very, I mean, to think of me, you know, this little kid from Omaha, Nebraska, talking to the great Henry Kissinger, you know, on a corporate jet about these connections, I mean, him. I mean, it was just fucking amazing.

SM: Some people on the left want to put him on trial for some of the things he did in Vietnam. Some of the way-out people some of-

PC: It is pretty tricky, but I think that he I think he was so smart. I believe he recognized before others in the administration that this was a no-win situation.

SM: That is what upsets you more than anything else, when you read McNamara's books. That is, he leaves in (19)67 but really knew they could win the war prior to and the revelation. Exactly right. One of the things I like about the Vietnam Memorial and especially even with Mr. Scruggs in one little polar was there around, they believe in bringing people there to the wall may have been a little controversial but try to heal do not even go to the extent of healing. That was when Bill Clinton came. And of course, he was, you know, he was cheered, but, you know, I have often wondered, what extreme would-would the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund go in terms of a healing? Would they ever as McNamara ever been invited and would not [inaudible] calm? And would by him coming would that really do something in terms of the ultimate healing where he admits his mistakes and says he is wrong and I do not know how the veterans respond, but you know that to me, that is the ultimate healing. And of course, we mentioned the ultimate healing to with Jane Fonda. Yeah, it was a book written on her right now that she should have been court martialed. And back to the lawyers and lawyers have written that she-she could have easily gone to jail.

PC: And what she did was treasonous. Right.

SM: And the question is, would she ever come to the wall and that would create a stir, but it was certainly would-would be the ultimate healing the courage to say I was wrong because everything she said-

PC: I mean, I think everything has to come at a time. You know, I believe what you were saying I believe, and I believe that you bring your most extreme opponents into your own 10-year-old home at some point, and you try to break bread with them, and you try to find common ground. I really do believe that. But I think there has to be- healing comes in stages. And I cannot conceive that most Vietnam veterans have healed enough, right to have Jane Fonda into their home. I mean, but I think at some point in time that that could- it should happen though she may not live long enough for that to be the case-

SM: She is like 68 or-

PC: Yeah, I do not know how she is, but I mean, she may not, you know, be alive long enough for that to happen, but-but I think or as you said, over time, Jan is actually a very smart guy and he, he evolves. But Jan is also pretty good about touching base with a lot of people before he does something. If he thinks it is the right thing to do, he will do it. But, uh.

SM: It-it is interesting, that is an interesting point when I knew Louis was the end of his life, and he wants to be right after remembering, he wanted to be right up on that stage next to Bill Clinton. And we took the students down there in the clip was coming, I was not there that time, but he said, I am going to be up there. I am going to sit right next to him. I am going to get my wheelchair up there. To show him and it was a statement. No, and, uh, and I think an absent Mr. Scrubs is in agreement with that statement or a given layer. So, a couple other names here. Gerald Ford.

PC: Nice, you know, nice guy just kind of hapless. But, you know, I think did a very courageous thing and pardoning Nixon, which I think was a healing an act of healing, preventative healing almost because it prevented a long drawn-out criminal trial that would have really ravaged the nation, you know.

SM: Muhammad Ali.

PC: You know, uh, God I mean great athletes, inspiring athlete in many ways. I think he was pretty open about I mean; he was a conscientious objector and good he stated it. Hmm.

SM: He lost his title.

PC: Yeah. So, he stood up. I mean, he stood up and was counted. So, I have respect for him.

SM: Spiro Agnew.

PC: Sleazeball. Totally sleazeball. Absolute scummy low level award healing level politician should never been in that office.

SM: I agree. And I got I got I got a couple books on him. I do not know how he ever got. I do not know. I just do not understand. Gloria Steinem.

PC: I have a lot of respect for Gloria Steinem. I know her. I met her several times. She has always stood up and been counted.

SM: Barry Goldwater.

PC: I- you know, Barry Goldwater. I mean, he is too far right for me. You know, but he has, you know, he has-he has always he always spoke his mind and-and, uh, he just was too far right for the country.

SM: Bringing them all out for this here. John Mitchell.

PC: Oh, I think he was just a hack-hack, hack political lawyer.

SM: I want to ask you about his wife by the way. She was a trip about.

PC: The whole thing was just such a trip.

SM: Noam Chomsky.

PC: I do not know who that is now.

SM: He is the professor up at, uh, MIT. He is the antiwar.

PC: I know the name, but I do not have I have no knowledge of it very little knowledge of him.

SM: John Dean.

PC: You know, ambitious young guy there but for the grace of God go I somebody who got you know, swept up in the power thing and, and did some bad things, but in the end had the courage to stand up and be counted.

SM: He is from Binghamton, New York.

PC: Really?

SM: Yeah, and I can never forget. I was a student at SUNY Binghamton, and they had these articles and how we met that beautiful mole. His wife-

PC: Oh, she was beautiful.

SM: Oh yes. And she was sitting behind him and. Uh, some of the musicians of the year of Jimi Hendrix Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan.

PC: Loved them all. Love them all. Still got all their music.

SM: And their stand against the war, uh.

PC: Did not care, did not matter. I mean, I thought their music was romantic and it was not music of our times. You know? I mean, I love the doors. I love the Beatles.

SM: We have a-

PC: I love the Rolling Stones. I love Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. I just I loved her music, but I did not, just did not take them, seriously what I resented the actors today, were you know. I mean, that was the (19)60s. I mean, it was-it was like, so I guess I have a little bit of a double standard.

SM: But when I was when I was in that accident when my arm was my senior year, 1970 and I was in the operating room on April 30, the night Nixon gave his Cambodia speech. And I was in the hospital for at least 10 days, and I had tickets to the Grateful Dead concert that it was at SUNY Binghamton. And if you go on the website for the Grateful Dead, they considered one of the top three concerts they ever did in their history, because the music was on edge because it was it was it was right after Kent State and it was like, tension was like something else. We will see. Sam Urban. I am getting near the end of my names here.

PC: You know, he was a- you know, courageous politician.

SM: And, uh, some terms SDS.

PC: Uh, radical left wing rabble rousers?

SM: The term counterculture.

PC: Uhm, an accurate term, just an alternative view of life? I guess, you know, one of the things that bothered me about all the counterculture was that it was, you know, it was mostly people by people who had some means of support. They were living somehow there was money coming from somewhere, probably their parents. So, I probably somewhat had this thing for them because I figured they were just-they were just having a good old time with, you know, drugs, sex and rock and roll on their parents’ dime. I do not know if that is fair or not, but that is my that was my view at the time.

SM: We a minister on the corner of the university, Pastor Steve capsule, Myers see now he is now he is the pastor of the church. But his claim to fame is he was at Woodstock for two days and he will not let anybody know that at church because it is an inside thing. He was there the first two days when he was 17.

PC: And the last day of Woodstock is the day I was wounded. So, I always am mindful of that.

SM: Did you know about Woodstock was going on?

PC: No, I did not know about it till after I came back.

SM: What about John Lennon?

PC: I love the Beatles. I loved them all.

SM: He was one of the biggest antiwar rights to the very end.

PC: Yeah, but, you know, there we go again. I mean, I have a double standard because yeah, he was-he was but his music was so beautiful. I mean, it just, I just, I guess, like, so you are sort of catching me in double standard land here. But that is what it is. I am just giving you feelings.

SM: William Westmoreland.

PC: I thought he was known a great command presence who was either fooling himself I mean; he I think he engaged in wishful thinking- in his prosecution or at least his presentation of the war. He was a source of a lot of statements that turned out not to be valid.

SM: Yeah. And that is the that links back to the Johnson, Nixon.

PC: Yeah.

SM: Truth. Where is the truth right? Two individuals in Vietnam one of them was the one we are talking about bringing the Westchester General Cao Ky and President Thieu. Just your thoughts on them as leaders in president to some of the leaders during the Vietnam War.

PC: Well, you know, I, I do not have that much knowledge on them and so I was a little you know, I mean, I think Thieu was basically a puppet in a corrupt man. I do not really know much about.

SM: Did not like each other Ramsay Clark.

PC: I do not have I have no reaction to him.

SM: And last couple or Maxwell Taylor and Henry Kevin Lunch.

PC: I do not have any real thoughts about-

SM: Chicago 8, Chicago 8 trial.

PC: Yeah. You know, they are just radicals as far as I was concerned, any-any of the antiwar types that advocated violence, or encouraged or used it, I resented.

SM: That is what split SDS beginning it was an antiwar group. But as soon as the weathermen started doing the violence-

PC: Well, we have you know, we are two blocks, literally two blocks away is where the, you know, the weathermen. People are two blocks away from me, let me straighten your goddamn out here, Dustin Hoffman's apartments right next door and they just blew the whole goddamn from the building off. Killed a couple of them. Couple of young people were killed.

SM: When the best history books are written, and oftentimes the best history books are written 50 years after an event. What do you think will be the ultimate, uh, what do you think historians will say about the Vietnam War and about the young people who are against that, or the people who served in that war? Because right now we think 1975 that was when the war ended. So, I think we have great books now. But I know the greatest books on World War II are coming out right now.

PC: Yeah, no, I think that-

SM: And so, we are still about 20 years away from probably the best books on Vietnam. What is your-

PC: Thoughts on?

SM: What do you think they will say, about the boomer’s impact on society?

PC: Well, I think so. I think they will say that. You know, maybe this is self-centered. Because I am a boomer was in the war? I think they will say that it was that it had one of the greatest impacts on the course of American history that it left the greatest imprint on an entire population of people. Of any event, you know, uh, since World War II and that was because it went on so long, you know, and it was it was just such a grinding experience for so many different Americans. And I think so many people were touched by it in many different ways. And I think it will be seen as a viewed as a, just a sort of a boiling cauldron of conflict and decentralization. Here we are, what 30 years, you know, 30 years later. And as I said, you still see people-people have not changed their views of the poor. I mean, it is-it is quite amazing. You are probably getting more appreciation for the for the soldiers who fought in it. And that will probably soften over time, and they will come to be viewed as agents of misguided government policy. But I think it will be the end up being viewed as misguided government policy.

SM: It is interesting, because it is amazing that all the years since the war ended, every conflict, every involvement, foreign policy. Vietnam always comes up and then of course, during the Bush administration, Bush number one talked about that, uh, the Gulf War or Vietnam, the Vietnam syndrome. And then President Reagan, when he came into the presidency, he wanted to end the Vietnam syndrome to pride in America. And it is interesting, but still, everything comes back. That is why I believe the building of this building in Washington, Vietnam Memorial that they are trying to do on top of the wall has to be built. Because eventually over time, the boomers will all pass away and the people will walk down there and they will people remember the experience, but by having the building there, the documents, the lessons of Vietnam cannot be lost. And that is why it is important why we do with the university is saying despite the fact that the oh c'mon is the past it is not past.

PC: No, I agree with that and look at it. I mean, I think it inform the debate about the first Persian Gulf War, I think it informed the debate about the Iraqi war. And, uh, you know, certainly it was the way that I viewed what was going to happen. And the difference in the way the wars were, the wars were carried out. You know, the military technology and the precision. I mean, I am good friends with Bob Kerry. Senator, former senator from Nebraska, the president of The New school, The New School, and he and I are social friends. And I was talking to him about it. He-he said, I mean, he was, he expressed all the advances in the military weaponry. And the fact that the moment any Iraqi soldier would, would fire a mortar round within-within moments, the location of that soldier could not be precisely plotted, what kind of weapon was fired? And within seconds after he fired that round, they could hit him using, you know, spies in the sky and I mean, you know, I mean my God, I mean it was just it is just amazing. We had what I thought was pretty I mean; I called an artillery and airstrikes a lot. And I was always sort of impressed at how precise they could be. But this was this is like, oh my god, it was underground gun. I do not think any and I do not think any at this point in time. So, there is a resurgence of pride in the ability of America to-to create this kind of military capability and it is, but it is a reflection, not just power and strength. It is a reflection of the ability in America to create [phone rings], you know, something that effective, you know? So, I do not think it is, uh.

SM: Last question and that is any final thoughts you have on the overall legacy of Vietnam and America? And getting back to the issue of healing because we you talk quite a bit on the healing within the veteran community. Where are we in America with respect to healing on the Vietnam War? So really, we are talking about the overall legacy of the boomers and the- where we stand as a nation in terms of healing over that war.

PC: I think it is a very, actually it is a very good question I-I found, I am going to give you a really candid answer, and I am sure that I am not alone as a Vietnam veteran, but I found myself after the First Gulf War and a little bit after this war, resenting the American, you know, the sort of the praise and the respect that America was giving to the soldiers who fought in those two wars. The first one because it was so brief. And the second one because it was so easy, you know, relatively easy. And-and the resentment comes from I mean, it is, it is, a it is, it is parallel. The dual feeling of resentment comes from the fact that American Vietnam veterans were so poorly treated upon their return in a war that was in again, we are all sort of self-centered, I guess, but the war that was fought under really- much more rugged conditions. The dual feeling was the feeling of pleasure and happiness, you know that the contradictory feelings were happiness that these veterans are being treated as heroes. And-and so I think that there is more healing to do I am guessing my feelings are not alone, you know, and I and I am not alone in my feeling-feeling that way. And most Vietnam veterans probably would not say that, but I think it is a real feeling and uh, but I am happy that the military has become a source of pride in America again. And not a source of scorn, even the most ardent antiwar activists could not, did not and have not attacked the capability of the military to carry out a mission. And so that is a source of great pride and should be a source of morale, you know, it within the armed forces. And, uh, and I think that is, I think that is good for America. So, the healing process has yet has-has further to go and I think the successful prosecution of these two wars is actually in the end. A net plus but it does underscore it does, it does remind some of us once again, about the tremendous, you know uh, disrespect that that we were shown on our return.

SM: Really good points, one- You are right on here because you talk about at least I have been around universities now all my life. There is only for about six years and no question that everybody this time regardless of the fact that you do not criticize the troops.

PC: That may be a lesson in Vietnam too. I think it is.

SM: I think it is and even Larry Davidson. Yeah. And it was-it was all George Bush.

PC: Mm hmm. Right.

SM: It is all the policymakers. And so, I think I am hoping that is to me, that is one of the lessons learned that cannot be lost. So never give the warrior you are serving and what is interesting made ball is the fact that I am amazed that our Vietnam veterans, for warriors can sit down with the warriors who fought on the other side. And the respect is there because they were called by their leaders to fight. There is no sense and hatred. Ongoing hatred should be a learning for the general public, forget.

PC: It is very interesting that you say that because I met in in Hanoi. I met the commander of the second NBA division, which was the division that had my company in one other surrounded in the Khoisan Valley in 1969. And he was there, and he was the commander of the whole division. And we talked, I mean, through interpreters, and we embraced, and I think we both were teary. And, you know, and I walked away, and I said to Patty, I said, he is just a man, you know, he is just a man just like me. I mean, it was, uh, [clears throat] and I-I have I have no anger or hatred left for the Vietnamese partly because they were so welcoming, you know when we came back. But I do still have resentment for Americans who are not respectful of the troops. And what that meant, by the way to those troops. I am not just talking about disrespect, I am talking about people whose lives were ruined, or damaged. You know, because they came back. Fortunately for me, I was a- you know, I was a college guy, you know, so I had the intellectual wherewithal to understand what was happening and rise above it in the course of my life. A lot of these kids who went straight from high school into this and then came back and were dissed and humiliated and-and you know, criticized and-and shunned, uh, you know, that had to hurt a lot of people, you know, and it was just-just so patently unfair.

SM: And I was at the Vietnam Memorial two years ago. I sat next to a gold star mother. She was not wearing her white outfit. She was there. And that was the day that John McDermott was sitting there prior to the ceremony. Mm hmm. And she said, my son's on the wall, right behind, farther back where John's singing. Can you take a picture? I have a picture of him. I took a couple of them. I did mail it to them. But she told me a story. They were from Penn State that she grew up. Right her son grew up and he was buried and came home. And she said she started crying and she said when my son was home for his funeral was near the Penn State campus and the students were kind of spitting on the cars as we are going into the cemetery again and that is the memory I have about my, my dead son was treated on his return to be buried. And to me that was an unbelievable anecdote, a memory that the books some of the books that I read that it is not that the veteran portrayed as bad as some people say, a bunch of garbage because I read, I have heard so many stories, even. Even the people in 436 in Westchester, John Morris, who the man who came up and shook your hand at Westchester, he was invited, uh, he was brought to the American Legion event. And they did not want him around. He was a Vietnam vet. When he first came back, he was young and so somebody invited him to an American Legion event. And then he also went to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and he was really not welcome there because he was a Vietnam vet. It was for Korean War veterans, World War II veterans, and he never felt he could not believe that feeling is stayed with him his whole life. Now he is a big person in the community now friends with everybody there and it has accepted now for Vietnam vets, but at that particular time, it was pretty quick and abrupt.

PC: It was- I will never forget it. I mean, I think that is why when I see antiwar, you know, my wife, you know, participates in antiwar protests and things and it, it is a- it is a sore point between and I-I have said to her, I just do not want to talk about with you mean, we are just going to, you do your thing, and I will do mine. But, you know, I just, I just cannot go there. So it is, and that is a result of the way I was treated and the way I know that a lot of my girls were treated and if I was treated that way, I mean, I you know-you know, I mean I was when I think about the kids who came back who were black, and how they must have been you know how they were treated, right. It is just amazing-amazing.

SM: Well Phil, there is a high school in Philadelphia in the largest number of African Americans killed in the war.

PC: Oh, really?

SM: Edison, Thomas Edison High School. Actually, I interviewed first interviewed the, uh, Hispanic principal. They are hired since you know, brother died in Vietnam. It is really interesting. The real bad section of town we are going over the nighttime. I guess that is it.

PC: All right. That is good. Thank you.

SM: Well, it is great.

(End of Interview)

Date of Interview



Stephen McKiernan


Paul Critchlow

Biographical Text

Paul Critchlow is a Vietnam veteran with years of experience in government, finance, and journalism. Critchlow retired from the Bank of America as the head of communications and public affairs. Previously, he served as the chief political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and then as press secretary to Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh. Critchlow has a Bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska, Omaha and a Master's degree from Columbia University. Paul Critchlow served in Vietnam and he considers this experience the watershed event in his life.  





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Binghamton University Libraries

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2 Microcassettes

Interview Format


Subject LCSH

Bank of America; Journalism—Political aspects; Press secretaries; Critchlow, Paul--Interviews

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Vietnam War; WWII; Hiroshima; Baby boom generation; Anti-War Movement; Veteran; Dwight D. Eisenhower; John F. Kennedy; Richard Nixon; Tom Hayden; Jane Fonda; Lyndon B. Johnson; Conscientious objector; Benjamin Spock; Environmental movement; George McGovern; Robert McNamara


Paul Critchlow.jpg

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About this Collection

Collection Description

Stephen McKiernan's collection of interviews includes more than two hundred interviews with prominent figures of the 1960s, which were collected between the mid-1990s and 2010s. The collection provides narratives of people who were actively involved in or witnessed events in the 1960s, an era which spurred profound cultural and… More

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“Interview with Paul Critchlow,” Digital Collections, accessed May 28, 2024,