|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
Pat McGrath: I am going to start off by asking where and when were you born and where did you grow up?
Marj Dutilly: I was born in Bridgemore, Pennsylvania in 1949.
PM: Briefly describe your family and your neighborhood.
MD: We were in a rural area in Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia; but it was, at the time, farmland. I was the youngest of nine children.
PM: What was your father's occupation?
MD: My dad worked for a paper mill.
PM: If your mother worked outside of the home, how did your family respond?
MD: She wrote from home.
PM: How were the household duties split up?
MD: Everyone had assigned duties, it was a big house, so we all had a lot of chores but we all did a certain percentage.
PM: What were your choices of clothing and music?
MD: (Laughing) This is the Sixties, do I have to remember this? I enjoyed mostly classical music because I went to a musical conservatory; so we listened to as much classical music as possible and clothes were jeans and T-shirts.
PM: What were your experiences with dating as well as friendship?
MD: Not much, the schools I went to were convents.
PM: When you were going to school, did you have any plans on what you were going to do when you grew up?
MD: Yeah, I used to watch the Bob Hope Christmas Special every year and decided I wanted to do whatever I could to get on his show.
PM: Where did you go the high school?
MD: Dillamorion Catholic High School in Malbert, Pennsylvania.
PM: Where did you go to college?
MD: Mackyelian College in Mackyelian, Pennsylvania.
PM: What did you study?
MD: I had a degree in History.
PM: Who were your best friends? Did you date or go steady with anyone?
MD: No I wasn't allowed, with five sisters and three brothers who were quite a bit older than me, I wasn't allowed.
PM: Did you feel there was any generation gap?
MD: No I didn't, I had a good relationship with my parents, so I didn't buy into the "anyone over thirty couldn't be trusted" until I got into college.
PM: What was your opinion on the use of drugs?
MD: That it was stupid; until I started to use drugs and then it stopped being stupid for a while, then I realized how stupid it really was.
PM: Describe your wardrobe?
MD: In `68, I was getting into the popular stuff which was bellbottoms and the lime green and orange and the tie-dyed and the two pony tails and the blonde hair.
PM: What was your favorite musical group?
PM: What attracted you to them?
MD: They had a good instrumental style, they used brass well and I loved the brass and the French horn and the trombone for solos.
PM: Did you have any favorite movies or any favorite books?
MD: Back then I wasn't into reading, I can't think of any movies in `68, Funny Girl was that `68? I don't know. That is the only movie that comes to mind. Oh, Easy Rider, no not Easy Rider, what was the other one? (Laughing) No never mind.
PM: Did you watch a lot of TV?
MD: Oh yeah. TV was big in my family.
PM: How did you get news updates?
MD: The Huntly and Brinkley Report and Walter Cronkite were my basically sole source.
PM: In college or high school, which instructor do you remember most?
MD: My violin teacher, who I just talked to today for the first time in thirty years. Funny you should ask that!
PM: Did you think there was ever a threat of nuclear war?
MD: All the time, all the time!
PM: Were you effected any by the Cuban Missle Crisis?
MD: Nightmares, when they drew the map of where the missles could reach, the day that was happening, our area was in the circle that if they were to hit Washington, we would have been destroyed. Our area of Philadelphia was, so it was very very much traumatic.
PM: Now who explained what this all meant to you?
MD: My mom and we had a neighbor that was a civil defense officer and he was the first one in town to build a fall out shelter because we got to play in the fall out shelter.
PM: In the election in 1960, was the election of John F. Kennedy of any importance to you?
MD: As a matter of fact I met Bobby personally, I met Ethal and Pat Kennedy and Peter Lackerd was her husband, I met him at a rally. I went to all of the rallies I could get to, I collected Kennedy memorabilia. I was a real fan. That was the first election that I was awake for, you know aware of what was going on.
PM: How did you respond to his assassination?
MD: That was one of the most traumatic things of that point in my life.
We were Irish-Catholics, he was our hope for the future. I remember it was as if a family member had died. We cried for weeks on and off, it was a very sad time.
PM: Did you think that discrimination against people of color or women were problems?
MD: Yes, yes. Well, not so much women but because my family was full of women that had accomplished stuff. So to me there wasn't any problem with women being able to do things because my mother was a successful career person as well as a successful wife and mother, she had her priorities in order and my older sisters were college graduates and accomplishing important
stuff. So I didn't have a feminist.. To me feminism, wasn't we had to fight for our rights because I saw women with power. As far as color, yes we didn't have any blacks in our town and so when I saw what blacks were having to deal with in the south, I was very troubled by it.
PM: Did you follow any political or social issues when you were in high school or college?
MD: Well, the racial thing I did to a point and of course I followed the Vietnam War very closely.
PM: Any anti-war protests?
MD: No, oh no. No protesting, I was taught that you were to support your government.
PM: Were you involved in any political activists groups?
PM: Was there anyone close to you or in your family that was drafted for the war?
MD: Yeah, well one of my brothers worked hard to become a teacher and he got it and stayed in college as a teacher because at that point only teachers were not excepted.
PM: Was anyone in the war?
MD: No, I had a sister that was in the Navy, but she stayed home.
PM: What was your opinion in the war's draft?
MD: I believed what the politicians were saying, and so I excepted one hundred percent for what their reasons for having the draft were and so when it came time to. In fact I fought for the chance to go and when I was there I was proud to be there. Until I realized how messed up it was.
PM: What was your personal view on the war and has it your opinion changed now to when it was going on?
MD: Well before I went to Vietnam, I was "gung-ho" for what we were doing over there and then I saw what was really happening and I became active in the Vietnam Vets Against the War.
PM: Did you have any relationships with any soldiers?
MD: In 1968, I started volunteer work at the Army hospital in Valley Forge which was right near our home and I spent a lot of that summer of `68 working at the army hospital and in fact the next semester I started the process of transferring from the college I was going to, in upstate New York, to Emmaglotta so I could work full time as a volunteer at the hospitals.
PM: So did you meet a lot of people?
MD: A lot of GI's?
MD: Yeah, a lot of GI's but all of them were wounded so it was a very different take on the war but it was my job as a volunteer was to encourage them and let them know how proud we were of them so it still feed that same support of the war.
PM: Now when you were working in the hospital, how did the people get along?
MD: I worked with the amputees and the eyes, ears, nose, and throat injuries, so guys with part of their faces blown away and eyes gone. Only one arm left, things like that. They were some of the bravest people or most heroic people I had met up to that point in my life.
PM: What were your living conditions like?
MD: My own?
MD: I was living at home. I didn't have a worry, I had no concept of earning a living or anything like that.
PM: Are you still in touch with anyone, do you still talk to anyone that you met in the hospitals?
MD: (Laughing) Yeah my husband! I have kept in touch with several of the girls that I was stationed with.
PM: What was your work experience like after high school or college?
MD: The day before my college graduation I got a telegram telling me that I was scheduled to leave for Vietnam in six weeks, so I had to get my shots and everything and when I came back from Vietnam, I was stationed in a naval hospital for a year. Then I went to California and became a "scum-ball" hippie and I did that until I hit rock bottom and then fortunately the Lord got a hold of me a said, "your messing up and now it is time to turn it over to me," and that is what I did. He straightened my life out, found me my husband and got us back together again after a couple of years of going our separate ways and the rest has been.. We lived happily ever after.
PM: What year did you get married in?
PM: How long after did you have your first child?
PM: At that point in your life, had you participated in any political or religious groups?
MD: Political, the Vietnam Vets Against the War for a little while and then President Ford came in there or someone came in there, Carter or somebody, no it had to be Ford, said they had to grant amnesty. So then I was active in the Vietnam Vets for Amnesty and religious, no I lost all faith in anything when I was in the war so I wasn't involved in any religious organizations until, like I said, until I hit rock bottom. Then it wasn't a religious organization, it was a person named Jesus that straightened everything out.
PM: What was your opinion on Martin Luther King, what he did with all of the riots?
MD: I was very impressed, I was very supportive of him. I was in Buffalo, New York when he was killed, in fact he was killed right before our Easter break and the airport, the Buffalo Airport, I had to fly home and the bus station in the airport where I reserved to be. They were close, I was very short sighted as far as aware of my surroundings too much when I was that age but I know we were worried about whether we would be able to get out, off the campus safely to the airport because of the rioting but I was. I had no. I felt the rioting was justified, I thought it was horrible. To me Kennedy was bad enough and at least if it was a one shot deal it was a horrible enough thing but now it was happening again and it was almost on the same card. He wasn't
Kennedy. In my eyes Kennedy was something special, but it was still a very sad time.
PM: After college and high school was music still an important part of your life?
MD: Yes, I played in rock bands in California. I did two seasons with a symphony out there.
PM: How about Woodstock?
MD: My home town was I don't know how many hours drive away from Woodstock, maybe three hours away and we got cars backed up into the exits on the interstate close to us. So it was happening but I though it was fun. I was not very tolerant of hippies before I became one and it took the war experience tochange me from the fine outstanding clean cut college girl to the "scumbag" I became.
PM: Was there anyone killed from your family in Vietnam?
MD: No, we didn't have any immediate relatives that went to Vietnam, I was the only one. We had neighbors, we had a neighbor that was a sailor, an officer on a ship, that made runs to Vietnam, but he was only on Vietnam soil for 20-30 minuteruns to the supply department. We thought it was dangerous for him because he was over there until I got over there and realized he was in one of the safer quadrants. To us it was gung-ho loyal, let's support him because he was on a ship going to war.
PM: Were you attracted to any of the women's movements in any way, or did you join N.O.W [National Organization of Women]?
MD: No, only because to me, I could see why you had to get organized to accomplish things because I had accomplished every goal that I had set for myself, I wanted to be on the Bob Hope Show and I got on the Bob Hope Show. Two different years I was on the Bob Hope Show. I wanted to travel around the world and I got as far as I wanted to go. I could have gone all the way around but by the time I got as far as Vietnam, and then I could have got a ticket through Russia back but then I was so afraid that I was going to die before I got back home that I said, "I'll take the quick route back across the Pacific." So I did everything that I felt was important for me, so have to organize with other women to get the job done, it was a non-issue.
PM: Could you describe any of your experiences on the Bob Hope Show?
MD: Well, we had a unit in Denang. I had gone to Vietnam and one of
the reasons I went was because I wanted to see Bob Hope that bad. From 1958 when he started televising his Christmas specials. They would have these Christmas specials and I loved it and I just thought it was the neatest most patriotic thing. My parents were older because I was the youngest of nine kids so they had been too old to be in World War II on a military level so my mother worked in the same army hospital I later worked at and my dad was on the war production board so they were super patriotic and to me the epitome of patriotism was the Bob Hope
Show. So every year I would watch it, faithfully, my whole family would gather round and watch Bob Hope. So one of my reasons for going was to see the Bob Hope Show and I got assigned to Denang which was one of his chief show sights. The day I got there we were getting a tour of the hill, Freedom Hill, and they said that this is the stage that Bob Hope uses and he is not coming back anymore and I was so mad because I had finally gotten there and Bob Hope wasn't going to be there. Then I wrote him a letter and said how come I got here and now your not coming? And I got a very nice letter back from his officers, we'll say, we don't know yet whether he is going to be there but if he is I hope you get to see him. So I wrote back again just kind of "tongue and cheek" saying well if he does come I hear by invite him to dinner.
So when the show came to Denang, he called me up on stage and answered my letter and said he was coming to dinner. And then it turned out he didn't which was really good. And then when I was in California two years later, I went to the studio looking for a job because I was out of work and when I got there the producer of the overseas show met me. I had contacted the Bob Hope production companies or studios, they had forwarded my name to this producer and he gave me the royal treatment, gave me VIP tickets to the next show which was the first show Bob Hope wasn't in Vietnam or the first Christmas didn't go to Vietnam and because I was there in the audience, they made a special deal of having me stand up and introducing me and that whole thing. And in fact it was that, my husband had teased me about being on the show the first time. So when I got on the show the second time I said I got to find that guy's address because I going to send him a Christmas card and say I made it again on the Bob Hope Show. And it was the Christmas card that was forwarded to him and his family forwarded it to him and he got that Christmas card and came to California. Our paths crossed again and we got married a couple years later.
PM: Which foreign policy issues other than Vietnam were you concerned with?
MD: The Middle-East. That was a big hot spot by the late Sixties. In fact many of us in Vietnam thought that we were going to be laterally transferred from `Nam to Tel Aviv or some place over there.
PM: Did you support any of the limiting of nuclear testing or think it was an important issue?
MD: I thought it was important but I didn't believe in limiting it. I thought the bigger move that we could make the less likely someone else would pick a fight with us. I thought let's see how big a move we could get not realizing what it could really do to the atmosphere.
PM: In your opinion, should the US have used nuclear bombing or more serious weaponry in Vietnam?
MD: There were times when I subscribed to the idea of maybe they just ought to do Hanoi and I had patches on my purse. The purses we carried were claymore bags. They were heavy green canvas bags. Guys carried their claymore money in and when there were extra ones laying around they would give them to us and then we would go get a patch or a pin from that unit and one of my patches said something to the effect of, we ought to drop a bomb on Hanoi but how serious are you at a time like that? But that was just the mindset of the time.
PM: What was your response in seeing Vietnam vets in wheelchairs, on crutches and in body bags?
MD: The wheelchairs and crutches, that was part of my work but the body bags just meant dead! And I never got used to the body bags. There were certain times of the day you didn't want to drive to the airport because there were so many bodies.
PM: Did you feel the war veterans were treated with respect and courtesy?
MD: No!! No, never. By us, those of us who worked at the military hospital were treating them with respect but society did not at all.
PM: Which of these following events in 1968 made an impression of you? Lyndon B. Johnson announcement on TV that he would not run for president a second time?
MD: I think I cheered. I remember sitting there watching it and going, this is important and I don't know, I think it was probably because he followed Kennedy and nobody could do as good a job as Kennedy. That was my mindset at the time.
PM: The Democratic Convention in Chicago?
MD: That was horrible. Again, I picture the angle of the TV set when I was watching them go from the convention sight cameras to outside when they were beating up the.. when the police were beating up the protesters. And my take at the time was "good enough for them, they deserved anything they got because they were not behaving very nicely," as my mother put it. So, that was very important.
PM: How about Hubert Humphrey's candidacy?
MD: I don't really remember much about that. I [knew] he was runningbut I couldn't vote then though because I was not 21. I could go to war before I could vote! The first election I was aloud to vote in was `72.
PM: What was your opinion on the election of Richard Nixon?
MD: I thought it was good, I thought he would end the war.
PM: How about the Space Program and the circling of the moon by the US Astronauts?
MD: Oh, I thought that was awesome!! When everything was going to pot down here at least we were doing something in space. And I had always loved.. I had models of the Gemini capsules, the Apollo capsules and they were hanging from my ceiling and when they would have a space launch, back then the launches, the whole time the guys were in the ship they would cut into the TV program, it was big!! We were just in awe of this whole thing. And the transmissions, I look at what they do now with the space shuttles and it freaks me out every time because they were so primitive to what we saw but we were so excited the whole time. So I would have my little model out and I would be moving my model around. I think at one point I wanted to be an astronaut and then changed my mind and thought that if I could get half way around the world that was good enough. But I was just fascinated by the whole thing, so all of that stuff that was going on was real good!
PM: How about the Women's Liberation demonstration that went on at the Miss America Pageant?
MD: Oh, that was so dumb! I thought that was so stupid. Again, I didn't see the need to carry on they way they were doing it. To me said at the womens' back, the womens' cause back. Like I said, I set goals and I met the goals I set. Some of them were pretty extreme, they weren't just, I'm going to find a house in a nice neighborhood and bake chocolate chip cookies, not that there is anything wrong with that, if that is what you are comfortable doing and I had other goals and I was able to meet them. These ladies made it more difficult for themselves, I thought.
PM: The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy?
MD: There again, I was a big Robert Kennedy fan. Robert Kennedy had patted my head when I was at a rally when Jack was running for President. So I didn't wash my hair because "I had Bobby Kennedy's hand print on my head!" So I had thought it Jack had been killed at least we had Bobby and then when he got killed, I can remember walking into the dining room at breakfast time and the TV was on. I then looked at my mother and said, "What else can happen?" It was a sad time.
PM: How about the Columbia University sit-ins?
MD: Oh, I just thought that was a unique way of getting out of class. I know I was thinking, why can I think of something like that? Because I hated school, why couldn't I sit-in. I did not see that
as a cause worthy of effort but I just thought, they were just trying to get out of class and it worked for them.
PM: Overall, how would you say the Sixties has effected you and the United States in general?
MD: The Sixties had a very strong effect on me but it is not something I would ever want to relive. In fact whenever I see someone with lime green or bellbottoms I cringe. I think it was a symptom of something deeper, I think when prayer was taken out of the schools the structure of morality and integrity and all that stuff had started to break down and that created a generation of "spoiled brats," which is what we were in the Sixties. And brats act out and I think a lot of what was happening was acting out but then you balance it against some of the stuff we accomplished, if the protests hadn't happened would we still be in Vietnam now?
PM: What do you think were the most important positive changes of the Sixties?
MD: (Laughing) I can't think of anything positive that came out of the Sixties. You know that part of my life and my involvement in the Sixties culture seems so unproductive and so negative. Our goals were to tear things down, to destroy that status quo, don't trust anyone over 30. The mindset, if it is an old idea it can't be good, only the new stuff is good and it has taken me all of these years to realize that we were so wrong but we were stuck on ourselves, we thought we were so smart and we had it together. To me if nothing else now looking back the Sixties were a time when I really see how smart my parents were because they realized it was just a stage and we would grow out of it, we would smarten up and we would hopefully not have done ourselves serious damage in the meantime and be able to go on with our lives and then look back and say, "boy we were jerks," because I look at that era of my life and I did the good appropriate things, I went to college, I had responsible jobs, I worked in the army hospital. So I was doing good things but I'm still embarrassed for my whole age group because we were all as a group really jerks.
PM: How about the most negative changes of the Sixties?
MD: The whole Sixties area and that's the thing. I think we undermine the authority and were successful with the sit-ins and the colleges and Kent State. All of these things as a culture did undermine authority and it didn't benefit, were all more suspicious as an age group now. We are not going to ever get in another Vietnam because we all learned that we are never going to let our young men go through that without a lot of serious questioning but from the standpoint of was there good stuff or negative stuff? The negative stuff was that we created a rebellion in that age group. Now before the fifties maybe there were some teenagers that were "wise-acres" but you didn't have this mind set of, "wait until they become teenagers." Teenagers are not bad people! That is not a given, but we in the Sixties got to thinking, "hey teenagers are really sicko's" because there were all of these teenagers, bare-foot, long hair, dirty clothes, jeans, bellbottoms that made it seem like that is the way teenagers are supposed to act and they don't have to.
PM: How would you compare the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnsonand Nixon?
MD: At the time, I was taken under by the Kennedy, "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for you country," and that is why I ended up in a war-zone. I remember sitting in a bunker one night when a red alert was happening and not knowing whether we were going to survive thinking, "I wonder if Kennedy knew what he was saying when he said that? Or did I really want to follow what he was saying?" Still going back that many years because that was in 1960 and it still had an impact. So I fell for all of that. And then Johnson was not a "showman" like Kennedy was so I didn't like him as much. And Nixon was even less of a "showman" because he had lost to Kennedy first and then he never seemed to get a good shave and that was important to me because he always looked like "five o'clock shadow."
So I was judging from the wrong approach, I didn't have the wisdom to know whether they were good men, I have since found the corruption that was in the Kennedy administration. That was such a disillusionment and I resented what Nixon had done as far as the lying and stuff with Watergate and yet I can personally say that he had done something politically which was go to China. Which was the first President in our lifetime to go to China. And the base of that week was scheduled to be wiped off the map and he went to China and somebody sent word from China to Hanoi saying that it would be a bad move to wipe Camron Bay off the map while Nixon is in China. And I was able to get out and there was no way we would be able to escape. We knew it was coming and there was nothing they could do to get us out of it and he stopped it. So the next election I voted for him because I figured the guy had saved my life so I owe him my vote. And it was embarrassing later when I found out how Watergate turned out. So I am not an objective person when it comes to the different Presidents.
PM: Some people feel that drug use and the counter-culture were the most important aspects of the Sixties and others feel that the aspects were overplayed in the media, what was your feeling?
MD: I think it was overplayed, I went from the stage of "they're just a bunch of weak-minded imbeciles" to "maybe that is not a bad way of doing things." And then trying it and realizing that it was the stupidest thing I ever did. That point in my life the only good that came out of the time I was involved in drugs was it got me so low and I hit rock bottom so that I could cry out and say, "God, if you are there you better grasp on because I am losing," and He did and from that standpoint it was like, "yes", but otherwise is was not smart.
PM: Have African-Americans accomplished the goals of the civil rights movement and is racism still a problem in the American society?
MD: I think there are problems with it but I marvel at how much has been accomplished over the last thirty years in certain areas. Now one of my kids spent two years in a military college in Alabama and he still saw a lot of what I saw in the Sixties he was seeing now and it was like, "did anybody learn down there?" But I think we have made great strides, so it is yes and no.
PM: When the war finally ended, what were your feelings?
MD: I cried for a long time, for weeks. Well I was in the midst of post-dramatic stress disorder when the Christmas bombing of `72 started and we pulled the POW's out in `73. I was like, "now we are getting smart and bombing." And then the POW's were released and we had thought that was all of them and then wefound out that is wasn't and it was up and down, up and down but I can remember it was a relief. But I didn't have the sense of Vietnam War ending in `75, to me it ended when we got the POW's back in `73. So it was a different connection.
PM: Looking back on the Vietnam Conflict has your perspective changed now than back then?
MD: Yeah, I think years do that. Anybody who is any kind of war looking back twenty or thirty years later they can see a difference. I am proud that I went. I see a lot of good that it did, primarily my husband. So I have a lot of good out of it. I see that it took that extreme horror to get me to my knees. So from that I can be internally grateful that it happened but there is a lot about it that I still sort through sometimes because I think it was wrong the way it was handled, politically and militarily.
PM: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial or scene a replica of it and what was your response?
MD: I was there and it is a very uncomfortable place to be when you are a Vietnam veteran because you know people on the wall. I went back to see the Women's Memorial, (tears in her eyes) Excuse me...
PM: No problem, take your time.
MD: I realized a lot of good people paid the ultimate sacrifice and there are a lot of people who still have not come home yet and that is what makes me sad but that is the beauty of the wall is that the people who have not come home yet can go there and connect.
PM: Are you still concerned about the POW issue?
MD: Yeah, I think we let some people down and I am convinced that we left people there and I am convinced that our government knew it and I am convinced that when we had people that were willing to go back and get them that their attempts to go back were aborted by our government because of financial reasons.
PM: How do you feel about the young people like us still striving to answer questions about the American involvement in the Vietnam War and the whole decade of the Sixties?
MD: Well I don't think any of us came to an understanding about what happened in Vietnam so why should we expect you guys to know what went on. I mean it was marketed in so many different ways and in so many different levels that a lot of us still shake our heads sometimes like, "why did we do this?" So it is nice to know that you even know to ask the question about it because I met people over the last 10-15 years, particularly in the last five years, young adults who know that there was a war that we participated in Vietnam but they don't know what it was, they don't know what we did or anything like that and I am like, "Oh, hello?" Some of us went through a lot over there and they don't know what this was. I mean they know about the monument but they don't know what it represented or why it is shaped like it is, you know all of that? Yeah it is a difficult thing to relate to the young people.
PM: Finally, what advice would you give to us?
MD: In my life I thought I knew right from wrong, truth from false. It took a war to get me on my knees to get me to find Jesus. To meet Him and if I had to go that route, if someone had said to me, "Hey you need to know who this person Jesus is, you need to know for your internal security, you need to know and I will give you a choice, I will tell you who He is and I will give you a book that describes who He is or I will send you to a war-zone and take you through horror, bring you back to the States and make more horrible because you can't get rid of what you went through and then you will get desperate enough to say I think I want to know who this guy is." Then to me that would be the piece of advice to any young person. Get a Bible from someone, read it. Read it with an open mind and say,"Hey maybe there is something in this I would need to know," and seek the answers and I think if we all did that and lived by what is says in there that you talk about not having war, that will take care of it.
PM: Well, thanks a lot.
MD: My pleasure.