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I Was Bored In Grad School, So I Joined The Navy

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
September 27, 2023 3:03 am

I Was Bored In Grad School, So I Joined The Navy

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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September 27, 2023 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, we learn about the Senator who started out as a forward air controller in The Vietnam War

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Use invite code GETDROP777. This is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about everything here on this show. Up next, another story on Hank Brown, one of the greatest and most humble statesmen of our era. Hank volunteered to serve in Vietnam, served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, served as president of three different universities, including having unanimous bipartisan support to lead the University of Colorado out of a number of scandals. Let's get into the story of his military service.

I was in grad school and found it boring to the point of distraction. So I joined the Navy, went through Officer's Candidate School in Newport, then volunteered for the UDT training, underwater demolition training. Unfortunately, my eyes weren't good enough. I was 20, 30 in one eye. So when I got turned down for that, I applied for flight training.

You could, with correctable vision, you could become a navigator. Got into a VR squadron, and when Lyndon Johnson asked for volunteers for Vietnam to serve in Vietnam, I remember it was a Thursday afternoon. He was on television. I was in the ready room working on some paperwork, and he came on television and asked for volunteers, and I went and called my detailer. In the Navy, they have people in Washington who follow your expertise and handle assignments, and I called my detailer and volunteered, filled out the paperwork that afternoon. Early in the morning, I had orders to leave before my commanding officer had even seen my paperwork. I guess I'd hit it just right, and they were trying to get people over to Vietnam. So I left the next day, went to San Diego for training, and then got to Da Nang, Vietnam in 65, early on, when they were just starting the buildup.

There were no planes in Da Nang for the Navy. They had planes, obviously, but they were Air Force and Army planes. So I tried to get assigned to a combat area because Da Nang was kind of an administrative area for the Navy. So I talked the Army in to let me fly with them as a forward air controller.

It was great fun. It was a little L-19, which is like a Piper Cub almost, a little small light plane. We flew basically the area of I-Corps. You'd spot enemy activity. You had to get them to fire on you first to be able to call in an airstrike, so you'd circle lower and lower until they'd fire on you, and you could call in naval gunfire or aircraft to strike them. The rules of engagement were insane because sometimes you then, after they fired on you, you had to then get permission from the American command for the Corps, the I-Corps area, and the Vietnamese command for the I-Corps areas. Well, sometimes it would take an hour to get permission to return fire.

Sometimes it took 24 hours. I remember we came across at one point a unit of a North Vietnamese military of a battalion level size. They fired on us.

We waited hours to get permission to return fire, and by the time the permission came through, they'd gone off into the jungle. The rules that McNamara had set down for our engagement in Vietnam guaranteed that we would lose. He did such disservice for Americans and the Vietnamese, and I think McNamara to this day bears responsibility for the loss of freedom for the South Vietnamese.

Just insanity. We should never, ever get involved in a conflict like that again where we don't have a determination to win. One of the things that most people don't understand is that first year in 65, the North Vietnamese murdered over 40,000 local officials in South Vietnam. I remember the Kennedys talking about how Teddy Kennedy, I think in the Senate at the time, was saying that we shouldn't support South Vietnam because they don't have a viable democracy. Well, what had happened is if you think about it, it's like taking California and murdering every county commissioner, every board of supervisors, every city councilman, every legislator, every governor, every mayor, every local official in California. And if you do that, no, you don't have a viable democracy. People are afraid to run for office because they get killed.

That's what happened in South Vietnam. But I found the training in the Navy to be the best MBA program ever offered in the country. A good MBA doesn't have anything on the Navy.

It's much better. It was a total change from college. In college, you're kind of trained to learn by excuses. If you're not ready for an exam, you invent an excuse to avoid the midterm. You know, universities are empathetic with the kids and want to help them out, but you kind of get trained that if you don't get something done, you can get by with an excuse for a while. All of a sudden, you were in an atmosphere where there was no excuse.

You either succeeded or failed. For example, in the Navy, if your ship ever goes aground or has a collision, your career is over. It doesn't matter if it wasn't your fault.

It doesn't matter if someone that you didn't see had made a mistake on the bridge. It's a culture that says you have to perform, period, and there's no excuses for not doing it. And so what it does is it fosters an attitude where you go out of your way to make sure you accomplish your mission. Giving things a good try isn't good enough. And if you think about life, that's the way life is. Giving an effort a good try isn't adequate. You've got to succeed, and it's up to you. And the sooner you realize that in life, the better off you're going to be, because a lot of us live our lives based on finding excuses for our failures in life.

Maybe it's a way we protect our own ego. It was a wonderful lesson for life and helped you understand how the world works. It was the first introduction I'd had to a bias in the press that astounded me.

Let me give you an example. When I would come back from a mission, I would take my photos to there was a Marine Corps photo analysis shop in Da Nang, and I'd take the photos I'd taken of enemy activity to there to be developed. Obviously, they'd share them with the command. On one of the visits just across the street, they had an open sewer in Da Nang where all the sewage went down the side of the street like a gutter, only a bigger thing. And a Vietnamese boy had fallen into this open sewer line and was drowning.

One of the Marines jumped up, ran over and dove in to all of this sewage and saved the little boy's life. The press corps had a setup there because they also used the facility to develop their photos. All of the press just sat there. None of them reported on the event, none of them took a picture of it, none of them interviewed the Marine that had saved this little boy's life, none of them interviewed the little boy.

It was a total non-event. I was shocked by that. How could an event like that not be news? And yet what was obvious is the reporters were there to only report what was bad about our time in Vietnam and not to report what was going on.

I was shocked from that. Obviously there were a lot of instances after that that confirmed that was the view of the press, but at the time it was a shock to me that the people in the press could be so biased. I see the people who volunteered to serve in Vietnam and see their service degraded, people spitting on them when they came home, and I find it strange that people who enjoy the freedoms that they defended are so willing to degrade the people who sacrificed for them. Perhaps it's a fact that we haven't told the story of America's heritage or the American sacrifices. And you've been listening to Hank Brown and his military service, the stories about it.

He got more out of it and learned more about leadership and so much more than he would have having gone to, let us say, Harvard for an MBA. And he's right about that last point about storytelling, and indeed it's what we do here every day. We try and tell the story of America to Americans. It's really that simple, and with Americans, because so many of our stories are from ordinary folks or, let's just say, not celebrities and singers and actors and the usual folks who comment.

And we also like to tell the historical context of when and why and how things happen too, because to not know a context and the story is to know just about nothing. Hank Brown's story, a remarkable life, here on Our American Story. Okay, round two. Name something that's not boring.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-03 14:05:12 / 2023-10-03 14:09:44 / 5

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