On a New York Memorial, Truths From Vietnam

A suggestion that Richard Blumenthal visit a site honoring those who really did fight in the war.

Comments: 92

  1. His best bet is to retire from politics. Then he can write his biography and sell the movie rights. Big bucks in that! What else really matters.

  2. Bless our vet's hearts. Some did the deed and that was enough to derail several political futures. What we asked them to do still doesn't settle well with us. Others shirked the duty, and that doesn't pay off anymore, especially when you try to spin it into service like the others. I would like to thank those who served and presently serve. Sorry you have to be reminded of those terrible times with this ugly story.

  3. It seems our errant war in Viet Nam, which of course killed more people there and mangled that country far more than our own, is still a festering wound upon our national psyche, and I suppose it won't die away until the last of its generation have died. And then their children's.
    As one who refused to cooperate with the draft and spent 27 months in Federal prison in consequence, and subsequently worked for the draft resistance and other such activities, for a few decades afterward I thought aside from the psychological "trauma" I'd been more or less unscathed by my choice. Now somewhat later I can see that institutionally I was probably punished/blacklisted, etc. which I would take as "normal" in a society like ours. Though my punishment seems far less than that of those vets whom I know, as friends, with mutual respect, people who did "serve" in Nam, and returned wounded physically, psychologically, and/or morally, and who faced an indifferent public and a government which tried to weasel away from meaningful accountability for such things as Agent Orange damages, or other such "collateral damages." Instead they found they'd been cruelly used, as Kissinger said, as "dumb animals" useful to fight wealthy men's wars. They found themselves "led" by charlatans like George Bush and Dick Cheney, who concocted a war on based on fraud and lies, and have condemned another, different generation to a future of pondering what they did "during the war."

    Mr Blumenthal should withdraw from his Senatorial race, from public service, and should contemplate the self-inflicted wounds in his psyche, as should have Mr Bush, Cheney, and all the other war-mongering public figures who always sit safely away, pontificating. The likes of Thomas Friedman, Mr Kristol and all the rest who led us into the war in Vietnam, and Iraq, and Afghanistan.


  4. i marched and protested against the war right here in new york city. i carried a flag that a friend's wife made depicting a skeleton wearing a general's uniform.
    i wasn't drafted but a few good friends if mine enlisted. one of them had a dad who fought in ww2 and was a paratrooper in the 82nd airborn division. he joined the 82nd too. i went to visit him at fort bragg in north carolina. we were kids and he had no idea what he was getting into. when he returned, he would wear his fatigues and beg for quarters on the street to buy dope with and get high. he would nod out on my living room floor. after a time he went to california and i never heard from him again.
    nobody ever spat on him except maybe the ones who sent him there.

  5. I remember that time very well. Seems that most everyone I was around was either getting out of the draft in any way possible or were trying their best to figure out how to. No one hid the fact. That was just the way it was. The country was so tired of the war.
    What does this really say about politicians. Can you believe anyone would dishonor all that served in that war? Anyone that was around during that time period and was involved with the whole draft concept understood exactly what Bush did.
    Only a politician would sink this low.

  6. Knowing I was going to be drafted and not believing in the Vietnam War, I decided to enlist in the Army for 4 years choosing training that would make it improbable to go to Southeast Asia. To avoid the War in any other way would have meant cutting ties with my family, which was too great a price for me to pay. I received training in California and Texas, and was stationed at the very end of the Aleutian Islands and Germany. I was happy and proud to join the college veteran association. I gave 4 years of my youth to this country between 1968 and 1972, but I never would have called myself a Vietnam Veteran. I feel that title is reserved for special people, who paid an even greater price.
    Most of the people I know who served in Vietnam did not want to be there, but went because they were ordered to by their country. I imagine the most of those that died it that war were there for the same reason. They obeyed the orders of their country believing that their country needed them. I honor their sacrifice at the same time that I curse the leaders that betrayed their trust and sent them in harms way for dubious reasons.
    No man who lived through that era could misspeak and say he was a Vietnam Vet if he was not, especially a man who had several deferments.
    I consider myself a progressive Democrat, but I must say that Mr. Blumenthal should be ashamed of himself. He has a lot of explaining to do.

  7. Should it prove inconvenient for Richard Blumenthal to follow Clyde Haberman’s helpful suggestion to visit the New York Memorial in order to resolve his confusion about having served in Vietnam, there are other options. Might I suggest that he pick up Karl Marlantes’ novel, “Matterhorn?”

    The biographical information on the book’s jacket establishes the author’s qualifications: “A graduate of Yale University and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Karl Marlantes served as a Marine in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals.”

    Even before I opened the book, I knew full-well I had never set foot in Vietnam; a few pages into the book, even the most obtuse non-Vietnam Vet would realize that this describes a place the merciful fates had spared him from experiencing first-hand.

  8. So the republican chickenhawks don't have a monopoly on hypocrisy and depravity after all. Thanks for educating us on that score, Blumenthal.

    That this loser hasn't already withdrawn from the race, and instead thinks of new ways of spinning his self-serving lies, tells us a little more than we needed to know about him. However, given their sorry record in recent years, I'm not sure we can count on the voters of Connecticut to recognize this.

  9. Poignant. Powerful. Honest. Thank you Mr. Haberman.

  10. I think what Blumenthal did was wrong, but minor compared to what others have done. Consider:

    George Bush Jr. - preemptive war and torture advocate, started a war based on false pretexts - never served in combat

    Dick Cheney - preemptive war and torture advocate, war profiteer - avoided draft during Vietnam War

    John Wayne - gung-ho enthusiast about war - never served

    Ronald Regan - strong military advocate - never served in combat

    Karl Rove - strong military advocate - avoided draft during Vietnam War.

    Joe Lieberman - ditto.

    John McCain, Colin Powell, Howard Zinn, George Bush,Sr., Paddy Chayefsky, John Kerry, Max Cleland, Pres. Eisenhower - all served in combat and are/were against torture and are/were generally sober and cautious about or against war, and some had their records smeared by Karl Rove, Bush Jr. and their acolytes, for political expediency.

  11. Can we please stop this constant talk about Vietnam. That was then. Richard Blumenthal's reference to that time and place is totally irrelevant but what he has to offer for the "now and tomorrow" is critical and yes he is a politician so is not to be trusted.

  12. What Mr. Blumenthal has accomplished in his career has been remarkable. So, now we crucify people who maybe made one mistake (and he did serve, even if not in the capacity he said) when what he has done for the people of CT - and as a result residents of other states, too - has been monumental. Let it go. I'll vote for him based on his record.

  13. Mr Haberman,
    That was a superb piece of writing. Thanks!

  14. way to go New York Times. Embracing the letter and not the spirit seems to be good strategy in the world of tea parties.

  15. I am 55. My mother lived thru WWII as a child in Germany. I learned from a very early age war was hell.

    I can remember Vietnam in the news from age six, give or take a year. My junior high school was directly across the street from the Suffolk County (NY) Draft Board. I sat in school and watched the demonstrations- large, angry, violent and frightening. I can remember my best friend's brother being drafted and how deeply worried his entire family was for years. By age 13 I was already formulating my response to the eventuality of being drafted. I lived through the RFK and MLK assassinations- part and parcel of the anti-war, ant-establishment fight.

    I was both too young to participate in, and too aware to ignore the great battle taking place in this country. But I argued (fought) with my Republican parents, I frightened my younger siblings. I acted out, I smoked dope. In 1973, at age 18 and halfway thru my senior year, the very last draft board lottery numbers was drawn. My number 278 gave me the pass of a lifetime and I began to breathe easy for the first time in years.

    I lived thru Vietnam. Yet nothing I ever experienced, imagined or feared comes close to what the men and women who actually served overseas lived thru. My debt to those people is profound.
    It cannot be diminished, trampled or desecrated.

    Mr. Blumenthal's actions and lies are a betrayal of all men, women and children caught up in all wars, none more than those who fought. On their own they are repugnant. Used to further his ambitions make them particularly vile. That he continues daily to obfuscate, minimize and dismiss his behavior is unforgivable. He renders himself unfit for any office.

  16. We are talking about one politician, Blumenthal, a serial prevaricator by any rational standard who should immediately withdraw from public live and issue copious mea culpas and disappear from view.

    But, why does every failing by some politician of whatever stripe have to lead to another round of irrational Bush bashing? Let's deal with the here and now and there are a lot of issues currently before us.

  17. Mr. Haberman you are certainly a forgiving person. Unfortunately, I do not get the point of your article. Is Mr. Blumenthal supposed to experience an epiphany? Will your proposed experience bring him peace and understanding? Will he then go forward like Charles Colson (convicted felon who now supports Christian causes from a palatial home in Florida(?))? Or will he go forth and live among the poor?

    I for one am not so forgiving. I propose that it is far better that Mr. Blumenthal continue to associate with and amuse the lads at the VFW or one of the other veterans' groups that supported the latest Iraq war while ignoring the conditions at Walter Reed, but they all had a good time shaking ex-Pres. Bush's hand.

    Truly, Mr. Blumenthal is an appropriate associate of such people.

    I semi-agree with No. 11, bon-nj. All coverage, for any reason, of Mr. Blumenthal should cease. If he does anything or wins or loses anything, there should be no coverage. He had his 15 minutes.

  18. For those of us who actually did serve in Vietnam---idiot that I am, I volunteered twice---this pretender exemplifies the arrogance and dismissive attitudes that have continued to pry open and tear at our wounds. On the one hand, we are stereotyped as wild-eyed crazies, and on the other, we continue to be exploited by every jerk who wants a cheap shot at being a "war hero" and thinks it might be cool to have been there, now that there's no chance of actually putting themselves at risk. Foolish as I was to volunteer for Vietnam, I did NOT volunteer for a lifetime of exploitation by REMFs.
    It's craven, cowardly, and profoundly disrespectful in the fine tradition of leaders worldwide who create wars to suit their own vanity, or whim, or worst of all, to profit from it.

  19. Mr. Blumenthal used all the legal means, for a prolonged period, to avoid going to Vietnam. Then, when it is expedient to his career, he claims he served in Vietnam. He doesn't claim this once or twice in some garbled language, but directly and on several occasions.

    At his news conference, he did not admit his wrong, apologize and ask for forgiveness. He tried to marginalize his wrong by his choice of words and tried to bully his way through in a loud, threatening voice.

    Two guys I knew well during my school years died in Vietnam. About fifteen of the men who graduated with me from U.S. Army Infantry Officer Candidate School, were killed in Vietnam. I led troops in combat in Vietnam and have my own memories.

    It's long past time for Americans to get over their angst about their choices during the Vietnam war and stop taking it out on or taking advantage of Vietnam veterans. Mr. Blumenthal's behavior is even more contemptible given his privileged education, opportunities and his innate intelligence. He didn't have a slip of the tongue. He was aware of what he was doing and made the choice to portray himself as deserving honor he never earned.

    One evening about 30 years after my experience in Vietnam, I was driving my 12 year old son and one of his friends home from a ball game. The other boy knew I'd served in the Army and began asking me about Vietnam. After a few questions, my son told him I didn't like to talk about the war. There was silence. Then, the boy leaned forward, patted me on my right shoulder and said, "Thank you for your service to our country."

    It was like an electric shock. In a flash, I realized no one had ever said thanks and especially not in such an unsolicited and sincere fashion. I also realized it brought to closure a lot of thoughts that had gnawed at my mind over the years.

    Now that it suits Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Blumenthan, who avoided serving in Vietnam by his family money, educational opportunities and professional connections - so he could get his career started, he'd like to steal even that little bit from we who did serve in Vietnam - so he can once again further his career.

    No, Mr. Blumenthal, you can't have it. You have no idea what military valor and military sacrifice in war entails and means. You have no idea the burden of fears the military men and women bore, the burden of fear their families bore, day after day. You have no idea the terror of those realizing they were dying and how powerless and overwhelmed you feel seeing them die and how much you want to disbelieve it is happening. You have no idea of the rage and tears of the families as they realized there was no way to bring their dead son back. It was final. No second chances. No do-overs. Twenty years of love, adoration and wonder at watching a little boy grow into a fine young man. Snuffed out. The loneliness, the sense of emptiness, the years and years of grief, regret and "why?" Neither you nor your family endured all those burdens and all the ways they would have changed you.

    No Mr. Blumenthal. You may not steal this last little bit from us to once again further your career.

    I cannot imagine the people of your state electing to the U.S. Senate someone who has repeatedly, knowingly engaged in making choices so devoid of honorable character.

  20. Blumenthal's bogus claims really infuriate me. When I think of the year that I myself spent as a POW in Cambodia, I feel great resentment at his petty presumption. Hell, that year was even worse than when the Japanese tortured me after we fought at Okinawa. Not to mention how the Germans mistreated me when I was captured at the Battle of the Bulge. And Gettysburg? Well, I won't burden you with the details of what I went through there, but it was not fun.

    I just don't understand how some people can lie so blatantly.

  21. I think Clyde's suggestion is a pretty good one. I have two more suggestions the lying Blumenthal may want to pursue.

    First, go to Fairfield, CT. Find the family of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Thomas James Tingley. Blumenthal can ask that family how they feel about him claiming to be a compatriot of their kin who was killed in Vietnam on December 30, 1967, three days short of his twentieth birthday. While cretin Blumenthal was working the system to protect himself, Lance Corporal Tingley was in Vietnam believing he was protecting fellow citizen Blumenthal and his family and his country.

    Blumenthal has had a pleasant and prosperous life for all of those 43 years since Lance Corporal Tingley gave up his life. How might the Tingley family feel about Blumenthal saying he was right there risking his life alongside their dead family member? Will they say it was fine that he lost his life so sleazy politicians can tell venal lies in order to be called "honorable" in the Senate of the United States?

    My other suggestion I've made in a prior comment. Blumenthal can (and should) spend the next six years emptying and cleaning bedpans in a VA hospital. Then he can run for the Senate on his military record -- and tell us all about it.

    I wonder if some of us might not get together and help. We could form a non-profit, "Bedpans for Blumenthal" to assist his transition to orderly work.

    One interesting thing Blumenthal has done is make me comprehend how deeply angry I am. When I went into the military in 1965 I had never heard of Vietnam. I had no idea it had any place in my future. Two years later I was there, but still naive. When I got back I wasn't so naive any more and marched in the streets and participated with VVAW. I knew Nixon was a liar, and I hated him for it, but eventually he went away and so did that war. But the last 15 years have been psychologically murderous.

    First thing, I guess, Robert McNamara publicly purges. Even before doing that Paul Hendrickson portrays him as a ghostly figure skulking through the streets of DC full of shame and angst over his role in Vietnam. [The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War by Paul Hendrickson]

    Next a cowardly military deserter manages to get himself named president and spends eight years masquerading as president. In that role he bankrupts the country with the worst kind of unlawful wars. He and his sleazy pals run a game on John Kerry who actually went to Vietnam and really risked his life, convincing people Kerry was a pretender. All the while, the arrogant Richard Cheney dismisses the whole Vietnam issue with his "I had other priorities." He doesn't seem to care that his 58,000 fellow citizens also had other priorities but they risked their lives and died anyway. Obviouly Cheney's priorities were dramatically more important.

    And just when you think it's over and you can let it go, another sleazy politician comes along. He wants so desperately to be in the world's most exclusive club, the United States Senate, that he will claim courage and honor earned by people who died to give him such a voice.

    Yes, I am angry. I didn't realize just how angry until Blumenthal did this.

    Thanks for helping me get in touch with my feelings, Blumenthal. Maybe I'll see you around the VA hospital.

  22. Mr. Blumenthal is not the first to have claimed wartime service or heroics that turned out to be either exaggerated or false. Such claims have been made by battalions of Walter Mitty's going all the way back to the Civil War, after which "waving the bloody shirt" was a vote getter for ambitious men seeking public office (never mind that sometimes the blood was catsup). Minor academic fame awaits the PhD candidate who unearths documentary evidence of similar phony self-promotion among would-be veterans of the Mexican and Revolutionary wars.

    As a decorated two-tour veteran of the Vietnam War (real tours, not imaginary), I once made the acquaintance of someone who claimed to have served in Vietnam as an army officer attached to the CIA.(It was, in fact, our status as Vietnam vets that lead to our being introduced.) On several occasions this wealthy, self-made entrepreneur regaled me with charmingly oblique stories implying acts of great derring-do in Laos and Cambodia. On one memorable evening at his home he even brought out a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for show and tell! I vividly remember the rueful realization that I had been played when his ex-wife sardonically clued me into the truth: the only uniform this hero had ever worn was during his days as a Cub Scout in the mid 1950's. I never confronted this humbug with his lies; I just let him drift out of my orbit and never spoke to him again. I remember, also, the too-beribboned-to-be-true Air Force "colonel" who a few years ago blustered into a busy local store after my small city's yearly Veteran's Day parade. While conspicuously limping and basking in the looks and nudges of his fellow shoppers I noticed, with amusement, that the insignia of rank affixed to both of his shoulder epaulets was pinned on upside down. I know, I know -- an honest mistake. Afraid not. Air Force colonels don't wear their eagles upside down. They just don't.

    On balance I find the Blumenthal situation, like those I've described, more sad than outrageous. What I do, however, find truly disturbing is the suggestion by Mr. Haberman that the stories of hostility, derision and sanctimony directed at returning Vietnam veterans are somehow a "myth" (Haberman quotes Columbia Professor Todd Gitlin in support of this notion). I only wish that I could spend an hour or two over drinks with Messrs. Haberman and Gitlin so that I could regale them with some of the nasty cracks and put downs I endured for years after returning from my second Vietnam tour in early 1970. While it may very well be true that no veteran was every literally spat upon by someone outraged by our Vietnam debacle, I have always considered the "spat upon" trope to reference the disrespect, condescension and sheer mean spiritedness that was routinely directed at returning veterans of that miserable war. I am genuinely alarmed that serious academics have permitted themselves to become a party to "disappearing" this wretched business down the historical memory hole. Take it from me -- people mocked us, and this "contemptible behavior" was not confined to "some dope here or there." Nice, peace loving people of all ages permitted themselves the indulgence of directing the rage they understandably felt toward Johnson, Nixon and their war enablers onto the hapless young men who dazedly returned from the worst experience of their lives. It was no myth. In my case, those taunts and put downs were in some cases more soul-searing than the horrors I experienced in infantry combat, and believe me, that was no picnic either.

    Stephen F. McPherson
    MAJ (Ret.), USAR
    Santa Barbara, CA

  23. Attorney General Blumenthal was referring to his relationship in the Vietnam conflict as "we when we returned home"(paraphrasing quotation from one of his speeches)as a Marine reservist who served during the Vietnam ERA!!!!! his accomplishment as a vanguard of justice for the state of a Connecticut,sends all these political campaign saboteurs(including the new york times)to total shame!!!!!

    [email protected]

  24. Mr. Haberman is right to be angry with Richard Blumenthal. It is impossible for anyone, let alone a Harvard Law School graduate who is adept with language, to "accidentally" say that "I served in VietNam" when he didn't serve. Mr. Blumenthal was not speaking in a foreign language. As it turns out, there were other occasions when Mr. Blumenthal made the same factual assertion about himself. By insisting that each and every time he said "I served in VietNam", it was merely an inartful use of language, Mr. Blumenthal just makes himself look foolish.
    My mind drifts back to a morning in July, 1969 when I picked up the local newspaper to discover that a local young man, well known as a star athlete who joined the US army after a few turbulent years after high school, had died in a fierce firefight in VietNam. He left behind a four year old son. Men like this were the real soldiers. They didn't have a golden resume or friends in high places to keep them stateside. I don't think I can forgive Richard Blumenthal for appropriating the biography and heroism of others and bestowing it on himself. Perhaps one day the men who fought and bled in VietNam can forgive him. I can not.

  25. Mr. Blumenthal cannot unmake the fool he has made of himself by visiting a Vietnam memorial. His hypocrisy is no less damning of his character than Congressman Sauder's of Indiana. He may be able to redeem himself in a personal way (although he does not seem to think there is any redemption necessary), but he is unfit for the public service he seeks. As for whether he should resign from the campaign, that is between him and the people of Connecticut. I would never vote for him for anything.

  26. Would that the New York Times pursued George Bush's going AWOL from the Air National Guard as assiduously as they have the one quote they've managed to nail Blumenthal with. And Mr Haberman probably understands that 'on occasion' does not mean 'on one occasion' but he went ahead and used it anyway.....

  27. Mr. Blumenthal - who, in a very real sense, is a war profiteer - should stay home on Memorial Day, just like he did in the 60s. He has much to think about, most especially his political future now that he won't be able to dodge his history of lies. Many of us went and the 'going' altered our lives. Perhaps he should contemplate that.

  28. Most anti-war people in 1969 Seattle were not the kind to spit on anyone. But it fries me every time I read someone make light of what happened to those of us who were stunned when we were spat upon. It certainly is no urban myth as seems to have recently become the norm among certain writers to claim.
    It was my first day back in Seattle from Nam. Six weeks before I was a ripped 205 lbs. Hookworm, tapeworm, and round worm had brought me down to 150 lbs. After 11 months as a combat medic, and a little more than a month as a sniper too, I was home on 30 days emergency leave, then to return to Nam for a battlefield commission and my own platoon. If that worked as my commanders expected, I would soon have a company and a captaincy.
    My walk was a little strange—light and flat-footed, quick, and feeling before committing my weight—the way you walk across the plants in swamp mud so that you don’t break thru. I had a big smile on my face, something I often had in combat in that strange, beautiful land, but really had on my return to my home town.
    As I approached the crosswalk at NE 43rd and university Way, right in front of the florist and across the street from the post office, my smile grew even bigger as came my way a fine young lady, perhaps 5’7”, with shoulder length blonde hair, a fuzzy, striking pink cashmere sweater, silver 2+” peace symbol emphasizing her delicious cleavage, great pink lips, and large, baby blue eyes, who smoothly stepped into my way, oh so slightly paused, smiled, spat in my face--and with cold fury said “baby killer”.
    I don’t know how she knew I was from Nam. My hair was not military short--perhaps the walk, perhaps the eyes searching everywhere. But there was no doubt in her.
    Stunned. All I could think was I need love, not hate, as I try to adapt to peace. I think I said something like that. I don’t know. I just see her beauty, so very clear in my mind. I don’t see the fury, just the beauty, but all I feel forty years later, is stunned and the spit on my face cooling in the sunny, mild October breeze.
    Far worse things happened to me when I returned from the happiest, most fulfilling year of a very good life. But that is the one phenomenon that is riveted in my mind and my body.
    So please don’t bring it up or else respect both the doer and the receiver. Not long ago utne magazine carried an article which claimed that being spat in the face upon return from Nam was an urban myth that did not have a single documented incident. May this start the process, altho this may not be verified other than by the lady or me.
    I have only met several veterans who have mentioned having a spitting incident upon their return from Nam. But lord there were many worse incidents—not a few of them from regular army processing NCOs and doctors who had managed to avoid going over and took out there shame with a forced contempt and abuse of returning soldiers.
    That said, I do not know how to judge the Hon. Richard Blumenthal. He might be a liar, choosing to say what is not true. Or . . . he might be like many of us whenrecalling the past, especially when recalling shared empathies with people who have suffered.
    It appears that he has a strong empathy with those who deserve it. Their stories have become part of him. He seems to be careful to make it clear that he has read and talked with many Nam veterans and identifies with their needs and many of their pains. And sometimes . . .
    I recommend The Seven Sins of Memory by the Harvard psychologist Daniel Schacter. Among those sins are some that can be unintentional. We recreate our memories every time we recall and/or describe them. It is fairly easy to misspeak—and sometimes, in my experience, it is not until after you have said it and gone that you realize you have incorrectly stated it. It is usually wise to correct what we have said, but sometimes that just seems to make it much worse.
    Suzette Heden Elgin in her The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense books discusses how there is disagreement between many people as to what is a lie. Some people strongly believe to say something that is not correct, not true, is to lie. Others feel that there must be the intention to deceive.
    I know that when I enter other peoples’ worlds I sometimes forget that my skin is not dark or my eyes slanted or . . I literally, sometimes, get surprised when I see my image in the mirror. If my bones are not aching, I am often surprised to see how old I look.
    Perhaps that is Mr Blumenthal at times—after listening very carefully and stepping into the worlds of Nam vets with needs, he uses the “we” or even the “I”, forgetting for a minute that he was not physically there but rather visiting with the help of those who were.
    I ask you to ask if you have ever found yourself forgetting for a few moments that you were not Vietnamese or Russian or as young as you once were.

  29. I carry the thoughts that my means to get into college afforded me the 2S deferment and that someone else had to go. I was fortunate and for that I'm grateful, but I have tremdous respect for those who served and those that serve today, including my son. Blumenthal's statements are from a short memory of someone undeserving of any public office.

  30. A theme from these stories and their comments is just below the surface, but slowly assuminng shape. Should Mr. Blumenthal be elected to the US Senate, would he become the breed of politician who wears his patriotism on his sleeve, and be among the first to need to show it by irresponsible war mongering? I submit that alas, we have seen this before.

  31. He should be forced to clean the memorial with a toothbrush weekly for the number of years we were in Viet Nam!

  32. The Times has so far produced an unusually large amount of articles and reporting about a man who said he served "in" Vietnam a few times in the last 35 years. I don't recall any reporting that he said he was a hero, or any other word about his service "in" Vietnam. The many thousands of words devoted to this "lie" should have revealed some scrap where Blumenthal embellished on this heroic service of having been "in" Vietnam. This whole campaign is a bigger fraud than Blumenthal saying a few times he served "in" Vietnam. The results do however seem very effective at destroying a man's career by the amount of hatred for him I see by people writing in who never served "in" Vietnam. So congratulations New York Times for getting the most out of a non story as Mr. Blumenthal has honorably served in the Marine Reserves and CT. I noticed the Times was unable to besmirch his actual service though I'm sure they tried mightily to do.

  33. Well, in July 1968 a day or two after finishing the bar exam I saw my draft board clerk and after a little discussion asked her to issue an induction notice immediately. While I sat at her desk, she typed it up selecting an August 21 report date and handed it over. Fast forward, on September 30, 1969 I arrived at Cam Ranh Bay and later, on June 10, 1970 departed for the world from that same base. During a tour of duty of 8-9 months, there was precious little gunfire heard, only a couple of nearby explosions and most of the bloody encounters I survived involved ferocious sqirmishes and combat kills of unfortunate mosquitos and flies. All five local deaths from gunfire involved our own troops killing one another over personal problems followed by suicide. In other words, except for a few tragic cases the experience was so mild it almost is embarrasing to admit I was in a war zone compared to soldiers in that war or other wars who took terrible wounds or died face down in the mud. War seems to work that way, and even in a war zone may seem as secure as any homefront job unless one is assigned at the tip of the spear. I've never been sure why such a big fuss by so many college folks, then or now, about avoiding one's obligation to do military duty except for rampant callowness or ignorance. Finally, not everyone from Harvard Law shirked his duty. The enlisted man who took my job in RVN was a Harvard Law who every morning and evening while doing his exercises would seranade us with a fresh rendition of "Take me home to Mass". Missing the experience of military service is like never parenting and raising children, one simply will never comprehend what one has been missed and no explanation ever fills the gap.

  34. "Can we please stop this constant talk about Vietnam" (No 11)

    Stop? Surely the talking never really started.

  35. In the U.S. nobody likes losers and not winning is a good as losing, hence the cold reception and yes some were verbally abused.
    I also knew of an M.P. telling me about the war in Nam til another vet (silver star) told me that all he did was chasing drunks out of bars in Saïgon. He knew he was lying when when he said that and he shouldn't have said that and I understand Vets being upset with him I would say he was flowering up his speech since his name means flower valley in German...

  36. Now who's trying to cash in?

    Blumenthal appears to be ill. If Haberman doesn't want me to think the same of him, he'll interview Blumenthal re things that are timely: What's Blumenthal think about those planeloads of cash that were sent went to the war zone and that supposedly did more than only touch down? How about the figurative planeloads of cash, those that were sent to Wall Street, home of the enemies of the citizens of the US, and that seem to have remained there?

    For a newspaper that's recently unveiled an interactive philosophy site, the NYT appears to know little about either Plato or his Republic.

  37. I'm sick of the whole thing. I'm tired of war as litmus test. I've had it with the "combat wounded veteran" bumper stickers. I'm weary of the " served my country " blowhards who did as they were they were told, were fortunate enough not to get their heads blown off and now parade around as "heroes" rather than the hapless victims of circumstance fate made them. Shut up or die. Choose one. Please.

  38. A liar will always lie

  39. "It is, frankly, hard to understand how he could have uttered such words even once. I was drafted in 1968, at the height of the war, but was fortunate to end up in Germany, far from the fighting. I was a Vietnam-era soldier. But a Vietnam veteran? It never occurred to me to call myself that. Those are not misplaced words. They are a lie."

    Exactly. It appears that Blumenthal is a 'good' man, who has served well and honors vets - BUT, this lie cannot be explained away.

  40. The way we were taught at home, in school, listening to radio and early tv, one might say it bordered on brainwashing. We accepted the addition of "Under God" in our daily pledge with not a whisper of dissent, not that many of us were yet prepared to enter in such dissent. Among all the stories and lessons on good citizenry and loyalty to country was an all-time favorite, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf."
    We have witnessed a total erosion of standard consequences for having cried "Wolf!" more than once. We witnessed draft dodgers sully and slander legitimate combat Veterans decorated for their risks and sacrifices. We witnessed so-called Swift Boat Veterans support and stand, shoulder-to-shoulder, with the slanderers. Then came George W. Bush, whose military records had more black than white.
    Between 2000 and 2009, we went from punishing serial lies to rewarding serial lies. If not outwardly rewarding them, we did nothing to deter future offenses that ultimately, threatened our Constitution.
    I have friends who fought in combat and friends who worked in support, often cleaning up the 'mess' of combat. Some of these friends died too early after coming home. In this light, I cannot find it in any part of myself to forgive a blatant liar like Mr. Blumenthal, no matter what else he has done for his constituency and community. What he did just isn't done.

  41. I feel sorry for those parents that lost their sons in Vietnam. They listened to JFK and LBJ as they tried to justify that war, but their children would never go there. Now they are in the 80's and their sons never came home. This AG needs to think long and hard before mentioning the word Vietnam again.

  42. I believe that Blumenthal should visit a real battlefield, like Afghanistan. That way he could actually understand, only if he came back from combat, what his lie means. Visiting a memorial only adds to all the 2S and 2A deferments he's already had.

  43. Beneath the lies to the public is contempt for the public and a self-centered reality crooked in its bent. That veterans would stand behind a man who agressively and arrogantly proclaims he will not be dissed by others shows the shallowness that exists in the public. Any stand-up soldier must turn his or her back on such a man, not one ideal for the public arena. Anyone who served in the military during the dark days of the 60's knows whether they served in Vietnam or not. To say you did when you did not is not accepable. This man should be repudiated and sent back to the private sphere -- or New Yorkers in their ignorance deserve what they get.

  44. My brother was killed in Vietnam, Aug 19, 1970. Almost 40 years ago and the pain never goes away. No one would lie about military service if they had this in their life. The lie dishonors the dead and their loved ones.

  45. It's one thing to reveal the discrepancy between claim and true record. That's proper journalism. But to lecture the accused is gratuitous. I'm not impressed by Haberman's piece.

  46. I was a freshman in college in 1967 at the University of Wisconsin (the "Berkeley of the Midwest") and in the middle of the "Draft Riots" there. I was very opposed to the war, as was my father, a WWII vet and a Captain in the Naval Reserve.

    When I went to law school in 1975, it was filled with true Vietnam Veterans, people who were in Vietnam, though in vastly different capacities. One did intelligence work well behind the lines and another was an aircraft mechanic. One was a Naval officer on a ship, not an aviator like McCain.

    One of my fellow students was a medevac pilot. He told me some really horrifying stories. He was a very decent guy. I have no idea what he was like before the war, but he was a psychological mess afterwards. His friends, me included, did what we could to help him. He couldn't stand the pressure of law school and, sadly, one day just stood up during an exam, walked out and that was it.

    Not only did I not spit on this man, I let him use my apartment for a summer without charge when I was away on a summer clerkship.

    People then knew that because of the corrupt draft system, most of the men in Vietnam didn't want to be there. I don't know of anyone who blamed the "grunt" for the war. There were some hyperpatriots who I would argue with about the merits of the war, but I certainly didn't spit on them. I think this is a myth.

  47. Normandy would vote for Blumenthal based on his record. But, part of a person's record is the claiming of credentials he does not possess in order to promote himself.

    As RKP so eloquently states, part of Blumenthal's record is that "Mr. Blumenthal's actions and lies are a betrayal of all men, women and children caught up in all wars, none more than those who fought. On their own they are repugnant. Used to further his ambitions make them particularly vile. That he continues daily to obfuscate, minimize and dismiss his behavior is unforgivable. "

  48. I work with many Philipeno's who have their own memories of Viet Nam. They describe the 'continuous stream' of american navy boats passing by on the way to Viet Nam. Their beaches were littered with thousands of teeny bottles of "Old Spice" apparently dumped from the ships garbage. Just an interesting perspective, I thought..

  49. Are politicians capable of contrition or apology? Those who are do not get very far... Cheers!

  50. The appellation of those who were in the military during the "Vietnam Era" has always seemed problematic to me. Veterans of WW II are called WW II vets, no matter where they were stationed, or if they went overseas. Viet Nam era vets are asked to delineate if they were in Viet Nam or not.
    One could even get more precise and ask a vet to delineate if she/he was in the field or not. There were some vets who extended their enlistments once "in country" so that they would not have to go into the bush. One good friend who did that, had a complete break down when he returned home as he felt shame for having taken that route.
    Then there were those veterans who served all over the globe and in the states during the era. I have talked to veterans who were stationed in places other than Nam who do not consider themselves veterans. On the other hand, as a veterans' counselor, I had a female air force vet who came to me crying as she was not considered a veteran by her peers as she had not left her airbase in the states. Through tears, she sobbed, "...all the vets who went to Nam will not recognize my service, Jim.... for two years I took bodies out of body bags returning from Viet Nam, DON'T TELL ME I AM NOT A VIET NAM VET!."
    Additionally, Mr. Haberman does not understand, certain reservists did get activated to go to Viet Nam or other duty stations. I know, the Navy had many reservists in country, especially Sea Bees.
    Lastly, I wish to say, that as much as Mr. Haberman's time in Germany was uneventful, this was not true for many others that served in other posts not in Viet Nam. Not too many know, that naval forces would engage in harassing and hostile actions and that there were times when such actions resulted in their being tense situations when one thought, as one of my senior officers said, "... we finally are going after the Ruskies..."
    When I identify, as a veteran, I always say, I did not go to Viet Nam but I do have "war stories" to tell and I still have nightmares about experiences during my time in the Navy.
    In the post WW II world, wearing a uniform of the armed forces of the United States puts one in the bulls eye in many parts of the world.
    When we went on liberty in ports in Muslim countries we were told to use the "buddy system" and stay with at least one other sailor, as there was concern that American sailors would be targeted by locals who did not appreciate America's foreign policy. We were even asked to wear our Navy uniforms instead of civilian clothes, as the local police said, if we got shot, then they would know enough to take us back to our ship.
    Sadly, the divisions that were so apparent thirty years ago are still extant. I fear that one of the tragic consequences of this ongoing strife about who served where is that there is no unified voice for Viet Nam Era veterans and consequently many still suffer without the help they deserve no matter where they served.

  51. While I find Blumenthal's statements troubling, I try to keep in mind that he is running for the office of US Senator from Connecticut. It seems the Times is more concerned over a few statements made for whatever reasons by Blumenthal. More concerned than they were with a President whose service was spotty at best and a war mongering VP who was given five deferments and stated that he had other priorities at the time.

    A lot of us did. But we had no other option than to answer the letter that read "Greetings, from the President of the United States.".

    More than three million of us have struggled with the effects of that war for almost forty years. We've either learned to live with it, or fight our demons each night as we try to sleep. We all have to answer for those times, those who served, those who evade as well as those who demonstrated to end the war. We all had our reasons for doing what we did. 99% of each group acted honorably.

    It's time to put it behind us. and if one man has to answer, then everyone must. For the times to be on a political witch hunt with two more unpopular wars raging, two wars which the Times seemed to be pushing for, we need to focus on the men who are in harms way today.

    I've made my peace with war. I thought my country had too. I guess I was wrong, again.

  52. Directed to #23, Stephen F. McPherson, MAJ (Ret.), USAR:

    I apologize to you for all of my fellow Americans who were rude and disrespectful regarding your service in duty to our country. I truly regret that you, and any other service persons who served in the Vietnam War were victims of any type of abuse when you returned home.

    I protested the Vietnam War every chance I could and in any non-violent manner possible. I wrote letters constantly to my representative, my senators, the Presidents and all their administrations. But I never once thought that it was my part to dishonor anyone who returned from the conflict and I surely didn't. I never once became confused by who endorsed and profited by the Vietnam War and I never forgave them. It was only those people who opted out because of 'more pressing agendas' whom I still distrust, disrespect and would like to see get exactly what they deserve for wasting the lives of so many Americans in the war they created.

    It is a shame on all Americans everywhere, whenever they endorse any type of conflict based on the words of a politician who evaded the draft or has never served their country. And, no, serving in a political office of any title does not offset the intent to duck one's responsibility for war, regardless of gender or age. Politicians endorse and make war, military personnel follow orders, reactionaries only need to find a victim and anyone will do.

  53. I served in Viet Nam in 1966 and 1967. And I'm not surprised that an American politician would openly lie to his constituents. They do it all the time. You don't make it to the top by telling the truth. The sad part is that he is claiming credit and glory for a war where there was no declaration of war and the Gulf of Tonkin incident was, you guessed it, a government lie. It was a war where the majority of those killed were civilians. It was a war where chemical weapons were used. It was a war that divided America. It was a political war so it's not surprising that the politician can get political capital by adding Vietnam veteran to his resume. If we would listen to what was written on the walls you can understand why no one should claim glory from war. Any war. If we had a Department of Peace we would learn that.
    As for the treatment of vets upon their return home, I agree with the author that spitting on vets or throwing things at them didn't happen as much as some have stated. I lived in Oakland which was a hub of the antiwar movement. I never recall seeing or hearing anything about mistreatment of vets. At Merritt College in Oakland I made the mistake of saying that I was a vet in one of my political science classes. I got bombarded with questions that I couldn't answer. But no one ever threatened me. I didn't feel fearful but I did feel stupid. After two years in the Marine Corps I couldn't explain why we were fighting in Viet Nam. It would be a long time before I told anyone that I was vet.
    The last vet asks if he will be believed when he come home. The answer can be seen in our kids still marching off to war. Looking for some glory.
    Hoa binh

  54. One does not have to be spat upon to feel hate -- it can radiate like heat in an jammed room. I know. In summer 1970 I was a freshly minted Staff Sergeant, on leave before being shipped to Vietnam, visiting a college buddy attending Chicago Theological Seminary, and walking into a crowded coffee house, and wearing my Army class-A's.

    I was proud of my uniform and my new rank. It represented almost a year of intensely hard work and training as a combat engineer squad leader, and, in my mind, a decision to serve in the military rather than "go to Canada", my other career choice at the time.

    I was then and still am anti-Vietnam War. I had long before decided that the war was not just misguided, but tragically stupid. On the other hand, I did not agree with many of my protesting friends that the war was illegal; immoral perhaps, but illegal? No. At that time, the President, the Congress and a good-sized majority of the American people ordered the war, funded the war and supported the war. I had decided two things: (1) that my only honorable choice was to either serve or renounce my citizenship and move abroad, and (2) that although I would be in the Army the absolute minimum amount of time, I would get every ounce of training I could in a quite selfish effort to increase my odds of survival. I remember feeling quite certain that I would be hurt in Vietnam, but still held a hope of living.

    So I was astonished by the radiated hate in the coffee house. Don't these kids know I am really one of them? Since when did an Army uniform symbolize atrocity rather than patriotism? Since when does personal political belief trump our obligation to serve?

    I still have than uniform and the memory of that day -- as well as the memory of many other days in Vietnam when I saw kids, and we all were kids, who simply did their duty day by day, often in fear, and always in bravado, and wanted just to survive "the Nam" and return home.

    That a politician would misrepresent, even once, his service and also exploit, even in a minor way, the sacrifice of others, enrages me. Raw emotion occasionally felt and sometimes expressed is the imprint of that era on me.

  55. "Nobody ever spat on him except maybe the ones who sent him there"

    This is the truth. Most of the American soldiers sent to Vietnam were victims of an insane military establishment that profits from war. At the same time, we should not forget that the Vietnamese people were the real victims of the war. Millions of them died horribly, but I don't see any memorials to the Vietnamese victims of American aggression.

  56. I never served in the military. When I quit ROTC I was 1-A and got a high draft number. I would have gone if drafted even though I thought the war was a mistake. I now regret that I didn't help the soldiers there in some way, even protesting to bring them home, but I didn't. Blumenthal apparently joined the Marine Reserves and championed returning Vets. I did none of that so he was more helpful to the men in uniform than I was. He didn't make up stories of heroism like Reagan did and he didn't lie us into war like Cheney and Bush but I'm now supposed to vilify him because he's leading in the CT senate race and said on occasion that he served "in" Vietnam instead of during Vietnam. Just to be clear about the difference, Blumenthal didn't gain any advantage from these lapses as actual heroes are "Swift Boated" if they are in the wrong Party. And dodgers like Bush and Reagan become Presidents. One more thing about serving in Vietnam. My neighbor(Kenny Zane) joined the Marines at the time. His first week there he was killed by friendly fire. He wasn't a hero but his service should be honored just as the service of the man who killed him. Were those two better for having gone to Vietnam than someone who served in England like my brother who's now a Super-patriot and back then did everything he could to avoid Vietnam, you tell me.

  57. My husband enlisted in the Army and was safe in Germany. Then he volunteered for Vietnam. Of course they took him up on his offer and sent him there (1966-1967).

    He never went to college, but he has a window sticker on his vehicle that says "University of Vietnam School of Warfare". That says it all...

  58. Mr. Blumenthal should also visit the Vietnam Veterans Wall in Washington, D.C., to see the names of all the men and women who died in that fruitless war. He should also be given the opportunity to sit down for a chat with Max Clelland...

  59. Amazing how most if not all are quick to name the repubs, seems that William Jefferson Clinton (what letter to my congressman?) served his time at Oxford, that took real guts. Short memories.

  60. If Blumenthal gets a pass on his lies it will be from folks whose idea of patriotism has been defined by the Non-combatant-in-Chief...that light-skinned articulate guy at 1600.

    25th ID CuChi/Tay Ninh vet

  61. Here is the lesson of Viet Nam : This was called a VITAL AMERICAN INTEREST... we LOST...yet nothing happened to us, not a thing. So someone very high up LIED.

    Today Iraq and Afghanistan are designated VITAL AMERICAN INTERESTS. Someday we will leave them.. we all know that... and a half hour after we are gone they will go back to the way they have done things for centuries... we will have lost again... and nothing will change for us.

    Some very highly placed persons are lying about these two countries being vital American interests. The reason they keep getting away with it is that the TWO "WARS" we are fighting NOW have no effect on Joe Six Pack.. no war tax, no draft, no risk from being in harms way.

    One must face the truth of an old saying : The more things change, the more they remain the same. Shame on republicans and democrats and those who approve of them. The war machine rules in America. Just a fact. Don't bother covering it with Vital Interest malarky excuses. Just collect your defense contracts signed in the blood of patriots so you can drive several expensive cars rather than a Chevrolet.

  62. Please forgive my gross error in my last post. I hereby give NYTimes permission to edit the error. I meant "the people of Connecticut," not New York. Blumenthal must be repudiated.

  63. There is a Vietnam Memorial in Hartford, CT as well. Over the past 15 years I have visited and watched the local Scout Troop raise the flag in the AM. I have yet to see Blumenthal there. In fact this is the least attended Memorial Day tribute in the country I believe. In 2002 - the year after the towers fell - there was a larger crowd, and the Mayor of Hartford actually showed up. But No Blumenthal!!

    We sometimes, but less and less often lately, call our elected officials "Trusted Servants". Blumenthal has killed that option. Even an insinuation of being in a war zone gets attention - as a Vietnam Vet I know first hand.

    Blumenthal does not deserve to visit any Memorial of VFW. He has lost all respect and even his right to assist other vets.

    Just Go Away Dick!!

  64. Campaigning during Memeorial Day Weekend? Blumenthal, you should use the ocassion to bow out of the race. Anyone in Conn. who still supports this liar is an idiot or deluded. Yes, politicians lie for a living, but Blumenthal takes it to the next level.

  65. This guy, unlike other democrats, at least served his country. He doesn't need to apologize for anything.

  66. Telling lies is bad. Telling lies about a war experience you didn't have is very bad. No mistake about that. Nevertheless, Mr. Blumenthal was a Marine with all that implies. He went through boot camp at Parris Island, did his duty as the Marine Corps asked and was honorably discharged. All Marines (including this reservist) know that no one gets the honor of becoming a Marine easily. It is a hard won title that we are all proud to claim. As with Blumenthal, I never served in combat in Viet Nam or anywhere else, but never claimed to. But, I always knew the possibility existed that I would be called up. So did Richard Blumenthal, I am sure.

  67. I second Mr. McPherson (#23) in his disagreement with the assertion that Vietnam vets' being spat on, and in other ways disparaged, in the '70s. We took guff from the Left and the Right, more of it verbal than physical but all of it unfair and unreasonable. Since the mid-80s or so, as American society has started to learn not to blame the troops for carrying out a bad foreign policy, the urban legend has grown that GIs were never spat on. Hmpf. There was a book published back then, which I haven't yet been able to dig up, by a Chicago newspaper columnist whose name I cannot remember, which printed letters sent to him by Vietnam vets, discussing their own experiences, in response to one of his columns. Yes, some of us were spit on. More of us were called "baby killers" (including me), and we were all made to feel ashamed of our service because the war was so awful.

    Mr. McPherson is right: we should not let the ill treatment of Vietnam vets be papered over by lightweight academics.

    1LT F. R. Pamp, Field Artillery
    Charlie, 1/14 Arty, 198th Bde, Americal Division

  68. i served in Vietnam in 1966-67. I received my discharge at the beginning of 1968 and began college, in the San Francisco Bay Area, at the height and at the center of the anti-war movement. I know whereof I speak. No one could possibly have known—at any time after my return to the States—that I had been in the war, unless I made a deliberate and explicit point of telling them, so there was no way anyone could have harassed me, spit at me, called me a baby-killer or anything else, unless I went looking for it.
    It did come up once, early on, during a campus demonstration. I got into an argument about the war with a guy who was pushing Bobby Kennedy as an anti-war candidate. I still believed in the war at that point, and in the value of what I had done there. So I was defending our presence there. He said to me, “If you believe in it so much, why don’t you go there and fight?” I replied, “I just came back.” He stopped, and his whole manner changed, and he said, “In that case, man, I have no quarrel with you. You put your life on the line for what you believed in. I couldn't ask for anything more of you.” And that was the end of it. It’s only one man’s story, I realize, but it certainly makes me dubious whenever I hear about how badly we all were retreated. The only time a protester said anything to me about the war, it was to offer me respect.

  69. Predictably, a slap at Cheney.
    It's beyond me that anyone doesn't readily see your leftwing liberal bias.

  70. It's interesting why this is so interesting. It's not in the utterly personal category, like Clinton or Spitzer's. And it didn't actually cause any harm, as Bush's lies about WMD. So what are we pushing for? I guess we want to see the guy own up to the lie.
    So if he really and truly apologizes, I think we can move on.
    And if he doesn't, quickly, then he should be tossed aside.

  71. I was stationed at Chu Lai, RVN for a little less than a year, serving in the relative safety of a battalion headquarters company as a pay disbursing specialist. I lived the "soft side" of the war, but saw its corrosive effects on young marriages, addictive behaviors, and race hatred that embraced the enemy, our RVN allies, and ourselves. The year 1968, during which I served most of my time, was filled with the violence of assassinations of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy and plenty of violence in the streets, dutifully reported by Armed Forces Radio and Stars and Stripes. A paradox of the times was that I had also served in the Peace Corps in Nigeria up to a year and a half prior to being drafted. The bitterest part of those memories is for me the fact that we have been for nearly a decade engaged in another corrosive national adventure, another generation of Americans is traumatized, and cynicism,and divisivness is stalking the land.

  72. Thank you Mr. Haberman for your thoughtful and insightful words. And thank you for having the guts to call what Mr. Blumenthal said exactly what it is...a lie. Too often we are afraid to use that word, too often we call it a misstatement or we allow someone to say that they have misspoken. Too often we do not hold our politicians accountable for their actions and words. Too often we allow them to create reality out of perception, all in the guise of representing us.

  73. While the editorial is laudible in its criticism of Blumenthal and in particular his "mispoken words" excuse, it is evident that the writer was not in the SF Bay Area during the Viet Nam war era. There, at least, outrageous and contemptible acts such as spitting and cursing at uniformed military people were not uncommon. Most people in the Bay Area deplored these acts but the fact that they occured with some degree of regularity indicated how divided the country had become. Thus, the fact that these acts did occur should not be glossed over or forgotten.

  74. Excellent piece.

  75. Let's not forget Al Gore, Jr., whose Vietnam service--yes, he went over there--was totally minimized by not only the Republicans, but by this very paper that is relentlessly skewering Blumenthal. And then there was Bill Clinton, whom this paper helped to mock and destroy for his stand against going to Vietnam, an approach that many millions of young American men of his generation also took. What is it with this paper harping on Democrats, yet you didn't do the same to George W. Bush (did he ever finish his service properly in Boston), Lindsay Graham (who repeatedly claimed to have served in the Gulf War), Dick Cheney, or anyone else in the GOP?

  76. For those of us who were alive at the time, we will never get over Vietnam. I was an officer's wife. My husband did not get sent to Vietnam, but many young men I knew did. Most came home. Too many did not.

    And while there may not have been a lot of spitting and trashing the vets when they came home, there was a lot of shunning.

    I had a vet in my writing class just a few years ago who told me "you don't have to be afraid of me." When I asked a veteran's counselor friend about the remark, he told me many vets believed that people were afraid of them after all the stories of nightmares, bad behavior. Much of the bad behavior, he said was rooted in survivor's guilt.

    The Vietnam war is seared in our brains and hearts. For those who say, "Get over it," I say "When hell freezes over."

  77. Well done, Mr. Haberman -- although if you truly believe that no returning Vietnam veterans were spat upon, yelled at or otherwise abused, it is only because you still refuse to believe the truth about the "peace loving" war protesters. Despite what you or any college professor says, the simple fact is that it happened on a regular and ongoing basis. Saying otherwise only helps perpetuate the myth the war protesters have created to justify their behavior. It happened at airports; it happened at parades; it happened wherever veterans wore their uniforms, whether it be Disneyland or a funeral service. I saw it in 1966, when I was still in high school, and I felt it in 1970 when I came home from Vietnam. I know for a fact that it happened. Those who didn't serve couldn't keep their mouths shut then and now, these 40+ years later, they are still running their mouths about how it didn't happen. Like Mr. Jost, the war protester who writes from Korea, these people must spend their lives "pondering what they did 'during the war'." While "honor" doesn't seem to mean much anymore, I know many who "served with honor"; I know no one who "protested with honor." And, unfortunately, we hear on a regular basis of those who try to steal the honor.

  78. I have been bringing tour groups of 7th and 8th graders from the West Coast to the New York Vietnam Memorial since it was dedicated. This memorial is far more personal and provocative than the national memorial in Washington, DC and demonstrates the complexity of the war and political divisions within our nation from the perspectives of those fighting there. The students are truly affected by the letters and I always find some time for discussion. Unfortunately, most of the national student tour companies do not include this in their itineraries and the local NYC guides have not ever suggested that we visit it; I bring them on my own.

    As a Washington, DC-based tour guide, I regularly interpret monuments, memorials, as well as conduct lengthy walking tours of Arlington National Cemetery. It's reprehensible that there are those who fabricate military service to for self-serving reasons.

    However, Blumenthal is not the first or only person who has lied about his service. Two other examples that jump to mind are: Former Ambassador M. Larry Lawrence who lied about his WWII Merchant Marine service and, as a result was disinterred from his Arlington National Cemetery grave and Dana Shuster, 'Nurse Dusty', whose poignant poem, 'Hello David', has been inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Rochester, NY, was neither a nurse nor ever in Vietnam.

    According to the NPR expose on Shuster September 30, 2006, "The last U.S. census shows nine million people claim to have served in Vietnam, but only three million are on record as doing so."


  79. How is this different from Ronald Reagan's lie that, during WWII, he was present at the liberation of a Nazi concentration camp, when he never left the U.S.? Why does he get a pass?

  80. As a non-veteran who faced the draft for a short time but was not drafted, I understand and support Clyde Haberman's thoughts and feelings concerning Mr. Blumenthal's comments. There is no way to justify them, only understand them. Regardless of the good that Mr. Bluementhal may have done in his political life, he has broken trust, and in doing so he has disqualified himself from any future role in politics. Without trust and similar intangibles, society collapses, regardless of the size of the GNP, military power, skills of diplomacy, and other ingredients of "hard" power.

    Trust is not everything and without other ingredients it may be insufficient in important matters, but it is necessary and central to all that is important.

  81. What he did was a kick in the face of all the guys that died in Vietnam.
    Those were not a few misplaced words they were outright lies to try to gain more credibility for his campaign. Marines are a band of brothers.
    You are a disgrace to the United States Marine Corps and all those who live by the standard "SEMPER FI!"

  82. Bill Clinton, moral leper; twice elected president of the United States.

  83. Thank you for this thoughtful article. I love that glass memorial and while it is not as powerful as the wall in DC it is quite poignant. I have always felt that we are all vets of the Vietnam war but would never claim to be an actual veteran!

  84. I have seen that memorial and found it very moving. I read all the etchings and thought they described what Vietnam was like better than all of the news reports of that era. It is just located in the wrong spot.
    As to Mr. Bloomenthal, I heard someone say that instead of saying that he misspoke but really he misled people. If he would just say that what he said might be more less hurtful to so many.
    Ruth Beazer

  85. In fairness, it should be noted that Mr. Blumenthal's actions at a state level are exemplary and that his infrequent slips, albeit noteworthy, don't reflect the investment he's made at a state level for veterans or as an effective Attorney General for CT. I find it interesting that so many national spin doctors condemn the guy and don't even know him or what's he's done - typical political soap boxing.

    In this particular speech for instance, there's another mention of his time served in the Marine Reserves where he does in fact mention that he did NOT directly serve in Vietnam.

    It's funny how we're all human and we all make mistakes and fools of ourselves and that these slip ups somehow define us and that everyone quickly forgets everything else that the individual has accomplished.

    Maybe we all need to listen to NPR more to get the full story when news reporters crucify someone - judgment requires clarity and insight, not one particular view point.

    I don't even know the guy and I'm more liberal than conservative, but I'm so sick and tired of cheap news designed to get attention as opposed to solid reporting.

  86. Yes, I get that "HE LIED" and "SHOULD PAY".

    However, where is the line drawn between a Vietnam vet and "someone who served during the Vietnam era"? My father NEVER was in combat, he is a WWII vet and proud of it, and gets the utmost respect. It is not that he was never in danger, he most certainly was, but no he wasn't at Iwo Jima or Guadacanal. Do you think that since he didn't "fight" he is a liar for saying he is a WWII vet?

    This is all a matter of semantics, fighting in the Vietnam war either specifically is limited to those who were on the ground in Vietnam and in combat, or it means ALL armed service members who were on active duty supporting the war effort.

    Let us remove the title "veteran" from anyone who was never shot at, and watch how few veterans there really are. I can't imagine what would have happened if my father's repair ship didn't fix the battleships and aircraft carriers (among others) in the war.

    I have a friend whose husband returned from Dubai, he's a major, and she milks all the sympathy she can from him "serving in the Iraq war". The worst he dealt with is getting a crick neck from staring at a computer for too long. So let's either separate the "real heroes" from the "participated in spirit" or let all veterans no matter their role keep the honor of being called a veteran.

    In my mind, if he was on active duty during the Vietnam war, EVEN if he was not on the ground in Vietnam, he is a Vietname vet PERIOD. The people who survived did so thanks to countless support personnel. Read up on WWII and how Rosie the Riveter even was a hero...

  87. As respects the "truthyism" that there was not and is not still systematic discrimination in the workplace and in the social arena, you must be out of your mind, sir. The Department of Veterans Affairs had to set up a nationwide programme (which is now limited exclusively to PTSD counseling) on our nation's campuses in the late 1970's called Vet Centers for the sole purpose of giving returned veterans a sort of "ally ally oxen free" run-to zone when the pressure from the other students' mouths and actions became too much to bear. It is present even in Federal agencies with neither acknowledgment nor remorse. If you do not believe me, please Google "FBI report workplace violence veterans." The four US campuses I was chased off from, one physically by a group of baseball bat-armed male students at the Anderson Hall dorms at Michigan State University while the dorm monitors sat there laughing, were MSU, New Mexico State, Arizona State and Wayned State University. Even traversing the country to locate a school where it was physically safe to attend college for a Viet Nam Era veteran (I hardly need point out the discrimination is as real for Era and it is for In-Country Veterans) yielded no positive results. The best one could do was to take night classes while studiously avoiding one's peers.

    There are many reasons not related to this ill-thought-out Liberal-incited and -implemented war's deeds and misdeeds why this was and is the case. You now no longer have any other distinct ethnic minority against which you may systematically discriminate in order to maintain your feeble and Prozac-supported self-esteem except military Veterans of any and all eras except males who exhibit non-metrosexual behavior patterns. THE USA has always beat up on Veterans at the same time they are the default source of reliable cheap labor, which hate/need relationship also applies to immigrants, which oddly and funnily enough, are of what the majority of my best friends consist, apart from other Viet Nam Era ("Viet Nam" two words sir). At the time of the shutdown of the war, it was not merely Veterans up against a wall employment-wise, it was an entire generation of young men and women, as the WW II generation had not yet retired, so employers picked the best from the largest generation in US history; thus, during our peak earning years, we were put on hold, for the most part, until well into the 1980's.

    I also wish I had a nickel for every male who never served whom I have met who had an entire collection of medals, paraphernalia, baloney lines of complete lies and near-psychotic fixations of having served in the military at all, and these were not simply winos. These are degree'd people in positions of responsibility.

    My solution for the situation has been A) to work in Canada under Chapter 16 of the NAFTA as a cross-border sales consultant and trainer in power plant related financial systems regarding project cost estimation for construction. I learned my skills through mail correspondence courses in the UK, principally, B) find work for other genuine Veterans from that era who know the score, and C) keep my mouth shut until I cross the border into countries where Veterans are held in effectual, not virtual and happy-clappy, esteem.

    The type people in the civilian quarter who never served are not part of my decision making process not even of my social milieu by force of circumstance rather than design. I have not been in the dining room of a white-bread middle class American family for a friendly dinner, drink and chat in decades and therefore life is good.

    You are not the architects of my worldview relative to myself and to my experience as you have proven you have neither the capacity nor the desire to understand (nobody ever asked you to, all I ever wanted when I got out was a proper 9 to 5 job and the opportunity to get on with my life).

    Why 35-40 years later the American civilian public feels so much guilt and anguish over this Asian misadventure baffles me, but it must be your sense of guilt. That is not my problem. You need to see a therapist and take more pills. Please do us all a big favor and keep your manipulative greasy meat paws off the public's brain in trying yet again to put a massive spin on how we were and and are treated. Veterans do not need your abusive obfuscations and prevaricating lies. I became immune to civilian consultations on the subject the first time a snide and leftist waitress I had dated prior to serving asked me over a coffee sweetly, "So. How many babies did you kill?" (My comeback was "How many abortions have you had?" End of date LOL!). Not a month goes by without some sort of little "gnish" like this taking place, to this day. I guess I just don't know my place, but I won't put up with it.

    I am very glad to read a former officer as well has held forth on this matter of systemic discrimination in this column, too. Thank you for your courage, Major McPherson

  88. Why did this article about the Vietnam/American war memorial have to reference Blumenthal? Who cares? I didn't see any reference to Little Bush's side stepping out of the line of fire. When will we make snarky remarks about all the elligible adults who have not volunteered for a war this go 'round?

  89. From the viewpoint of today’s students, the Vietnam War (or “The American War,” as the Vietnamese call it) is receding into ancient history. We may wish it wasn’t so, but time runs on. (I had lunch with some 2nd graders this week who think that people in their 30s are “very old.” )
    So the issue of who served back then and who didn’t grows less relevant, unfortunately, with every passing year.
    For example, political science professor Sean McLean at Quinnipiac University said most people today probably don’t see a case like Blumenthal’s as a major issue. “It seems to mean an awful lot to a very narrow slice of voters,” McLean told the AP’s Pat Eaton-Robb earlier this week. “In what we see in surveys of younger voters is that they really could not care less about this, and who was on what side and whether you were protesting or whether you were in the military. It becomes increasingly irrelevant.”
    This is still a huge issue as far as I’m concerned. (Me? An era-vet. Enlisted in Milwaukee, Wis. in June 1968 at age 19. Was in Thailand from Nov. 68 to June 71 with the 40th MP Bn., MOS 95Bravo. No sweat, GI. I was lucky, but the Army was like my high school, and the best home I ever had.)
    But maybe we who are acutely aware of the importance of getting everyone to pitch in with the nation’s defense should start to think about a legacy.
    Such as getting more people from the educational and financial elite to serve on active duty. Impossible? Maybe …
    As for Blumenthal, it would have been nice if he could have choked out a “sorry” or “apologize.” At least the guy finished boot camp and wound up a sergeant. (He also seems to be the latest in a line of smart lawyers used to playing fast and loose with the truth who stumble occasionally because the public is less tolerant of mendacity than the courts. See Clinton, Bill ‘What is the meaning is the word is’ and Edwards, John. But that’s another story.)
    BTW, the AP’s Eaton-Robb did a nice job on the story, but she made an error that points up the growing divide between people who served on active duty (or know someone who did) and those who didn’t.
    Ms. Eaton-Robb’s account had the veterans at Blumenthal’s press conference saying “hoo-hah.” Of course it sounds a lot like “hoo-ah.” Close but no cigar.
    Which is why this issue still matters a lot – but maybe it’s time to think legacy.

  90. Too much sun - the man is delerious!

  91. When my Cousin, Chris returned from Viet Nam, he was spit upon by people demonstrating at the airport. He was told to change his clothing before going into the public view. He was told it was best to wear civilian attire. When he was seen in public, people knew he was a Veteran due to the length of his hair. He was approached by people who would ask him why he killed children.