|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
Emily Caldarelli/Matt Olivier: Where and when were you born?
Marty Halyburton: I was born in Roanoke, Virginia, on April 1, 1942.
AK/EB: Where did you grow up?
MH: My family lived in Virginia, and when I was two years old, my father went into the Army in World War II, and we lived in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Austin, Texas, during World War II. And following the War, we moved to Coral Gables, Florida, and I lived there until I went to college.
EC/MO: Briefly describe your family and your neighborhood.
MH: I'm an only child. My father was a real estate broker, and worked in development in south Florida, and my mother was a nurse. And, I would say, I had sort of an average, happy childhood.
EC/MO: What were your parents' political views and affiliations?
MH: I don't think they were really particularly politically interested in politics, and my mother died when I was in college, and so it's not the kind of thing that I discussed as an adult. And so, I don't really have a feeling on that. I would say that they were probably, probably fairly conservative.
EC/MO: Where did you and your family get information about politics and other events?
MH: I imagine we got it from the newspaper.
EC/MO: What did you think that you wanted to do when you grew up, and how did that change over time?
MH: I think in my day and time, different from today, most young girls thought that they would grow up and maybe get married, and that they really would not have to work.
EC/MO: Were you aware of any discrimination against people in your family or neighborhood?
MH: Um. not against my family, but the area that I lived in had a fairly, had about a 25% Jewish population. The school I went to, I went to a public high school, and I remember that some of the Jewish students felt that they were discriminated against. My best friend was Jewish. Her, she had one parent who was Jewish and one parent who was Christian, and she never celebrated or participated in any of the Jewish holidays because I think most of her friends were not Jewish and she was awkward about that. And, looking back on it now, you know, I feel badly for her that she could not feel comfortable with that.
EC/MO: How did people around you talk about people in other ethnic groups?
MH: When I was in the sixth grade, I remember very clearly, the schools were segregated, and the area I lived in did have a black population, and they had their own school systems. And the school I was going to was undergoing a big renovation, and I actually ended up going to a school in another part of town. And everyone told us we had to go on a bus and it was a part of town that was not as nice as the part of town that my school was in. And I think I remember people thinking that it was different.
And one day, I had to go to the dentist, I had kind of a dental emergency, and I remember leaving. I couldn't get hold of my parents. And so I knew it was a long walk, but I felt like I could walk. And I think that was my first time, it was a totally black neighborhood, and I walked through this black neighborhood, and about halfway through, I began to realize that maybe I wasn't as comfortable. But going into it, I knew I was walking through a neighborhood that black people lived in, but it sort of wasn't until people were looking at me and really wondering what in the world I was doing, because that just wasn't something that people kind of did on a regular basis.
EC/MO: Where did you go to high school and college and what did you study?
MH: I went to Coral Gables High School, it was a public high school, and at that particular time, almost everybody, there were not as many private schools as there are today, but it was a very, a high school that had a very good reputation and it was a very big high school. I had seven hundred in my graduating class. And then I went away. And also, Coral Gables is a suburb of Miami, so I grew up in kind of a big city. But, it was very safe, and I went downtown on the bus by myself, there was, you know, I wasn't worried about crime like you would in Miami today. I went away to college to a totally different environment. I chose to go to a small girl's school in Charlotte, North Carolina, Queens College, and I was a history major.
EC/MO: Did, can you describe your extracurricular activities you were involved in?
MH: In high school or college?
EC/MO: Well, in both.
MH: In both? In high school, we had clubs that were a big part of our life. They were kind of like sororities for girls and fraternities for boys, and I was very involved in one of those, and I was a cheerleader. In college, I, what did I do in college? I don't think I was really that involved in student government or, I don't really remember particularly what I was involved in there.
EC/MO: Who were your best friends in high school and college, and did you date or go steady with guys in your school?
MH: Well, my best friend, as I said, was a girl who was half Jewish and half Christian, Barbara Edwards, and we were very close in high school. I think in college I had sort of a number of best friends, but they were probably a little more like I was. I did have a boyfriend that I, a couple of boyfriends in college, and we did go steady. That was kind of a big thing if you dated one person, you went steady. And then I met my husband my sophomore year in college, and we actually got married. I graduated from college in three and a half years, and we got married at Christmas, and I had to go back to college for two weeks to take my exams, after we were married.
EC/MO: Could you, did you keep in touch with any of your friends?
MH: Yes, I kept in touch with my friends. In both high school and college, I still go back to Coral Gables, and I have some friends that I am in touch with, and I'm getting ready to go to my college reunion, my thirty fifth college reunion, in, on the eighth of May, so I keep in touch with lots of those people. And my husband went to, he and I, since I went to a girl's school, he went to a boy's school that was just twenty miles away, a men's college.
EC/MO: Could you describe dating among your group of friends? Was there anything different in your relationships when you went to college?
MH: What do you mean different?
EC/MO: Was it more serious when you went to college?
MH: You mean than I see today with my kids, or just my relationship with my boyfriends and my friends with theirs?
EC/MO: No, like versus high school and college.
MH: Oh, high school and college? Well, not only that, almost everybody, I didn't really know anybody that got married after high school. But when I was in college, I must say, it is a little embarrassing in 1998 to admit this, but when I, in 1964, when I, or 1963, when I was graduating from college, I mean, I think the people who were not engaged or ready to get married were sort of, sort of felt left out. Which is kind of sad. I mean, I look back on it now, and I have three children, and I wouldn't want them to feel that they had to get married at twenty three.
EC/MO: Did your counselors or teachers encourage you to go to college or graduate school? If not, why?
MH: Um. I think it was just sort of expected. I never, it never sort of occurred to me not to go to college.
EC/MO: Were males treated differently then you were?
MH: There were a whole lot of, except for large universities, most of the private colleges back in the Sixties were men or women, and so. I don't remember in high school being treated differently, but I did go to the University, I went to summer school, so I could graduate early, and I went to the University of Miami to summer school which was a large university and had men and women. And I did feel there sometimes that the teachers called on the boys more than the girls.
EC/MO: Did you feel there was a generation gap in the late Sixties? If so, why?
MH: A generation gap. Probably in the very early Sixties, I did not feel that there was a generation gap. That would have been, I graduated from high school in 1960, and then from college in like 1964 with my class, and at that, in high school, there were a lot of social events, parties, and things, that both people my parent's age and teenagers, we went to together. And so I felt very comfortable with the generation ahead of me. And then, probably the generation gap that I felt later on towards the end of the Sixties, I'm not sure I was really aware of that, because I was still in my twenties, and so I didn't have that much association with either people who were in college or in high school. It didn't affect me, maybe, except for the Vietnam War business, which I guess we will get to.
EC/MO: Yeah, um, could you describe your wardrobe in the Sixties? And, what did clothing reveal about yourself and other people?
MH: Well, I liked to sew, and also, I lived in a pretty affluent area, and a lot of my friends had a lot more clothes than I did. And so, I found that by sewing I could have a lot of clothes, and because I lived in south Florida, I think we wore things that were a little bit different then people in other parts of the country. I remember in high school, when I went to college, the things that were popular were saddle oxfords, and poodle skirts. We did wear big crinolines.
EC/MO: What are saddle oxfords?
MH: Saddle oxfords are, they're like brown and white shoes, lace up shoes. They have brown in here and white on the toe and on the heel.
EC/MO: Yeah, okay.
MH: And loafers, Bass Weegens were sort of the popular shoes.
EC/MO: What year was that?
MH: Well, I graduated from high school in 1960, and then college in `64. But in college, the Bass Weegens, that was sort of the thing, and these little white shirts with Peter Pan collars the girls wore. And so that would have been sort of the early Sixties, and by that time, all these petticoats had gone out of style. That was probably the late Fifties. But it was, kind of, a very tailored, but when I went to college in 1960 to `64, girls had to wear a skirt to class.
EC/MO: It was mandatory?
EC/MO: What did you know about the counter culture? Was it a positive or negative thing?
MH: I think when I first became aware of that was when my husband was in Vietnam and I began seeing on television people marching against the war in Vietnam. But I don't think I really had sort of a close, personal experience with that group. It kind of just was not a part of my life and where I lived.
EC/MO: So you did not participate in any of the counter culture?
EC/MO: Just because it wasn't, like, around your area?
MH: No, I think I was a little too, that kind of came after my period. That really started happening in colleges, probably in the late Sixties. I would say when I got out of college, things were still pretty conservative. I mean, unfortunately, not that this is good, but we were more interested in, you know, I was a good student, and I did my school work, but if you ask me, or if I was very honest about what I really was most interested in, it was probably who I had a date with on the weekend and that kind of thing.
EC/MO: Which were you favorite musical groups in the Sixties?
MH: Again, being from the South, we didn't listen to typical music. We listened to a lot of black music. And there were a lot of bands that were not really even popular nationally, and that was sort of the big thing, if you were going somewhere special. It would sort of be you would go to a black place where, sort of a black nightclub, I guess you would call it, but Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, that kind of thing.
EC/MO: Did you attend any concerts?
MH: Yes. I think the one that really sticks out in my mind, well, at that time, they didn't have these big concert venues like they do now, but they came to colleges and universities, and my husband was the social chairman of his college, of his fraternity in college, and he had Fats Domino come, Jerry Lee Lewis came, just to a fraternity party. Because they didn't play in these huge, they also did not have millions of dollars like they do now, and so I think life was a struggle for those people. They were going from place to place, night to night. And, but, and then I remember hearing, now I can't think of her name, sort of a Blues singer, I keep thinking Ertha Kitt, that's not who I'm thinking of, though, but, well, Nina Simone. So she was sort of a Jazz, other than kind of rock and roll things that we listened to.
EC/MO: Were there any prejudices towards blacks in your neighborhood or around your area, and did that conflict with the music you listened to or anything?
MH: I think we all loved black music. And in the South, I mean, I really never knew any black people my age. I knew, we had black people, a maid at our house, that helped clean, my mother clean house. And we thought very highly of her, and I, and my mother also did a lot of work down in the migrant farm workers, where migrant workers, a lot of those people were black or Hispanic. And I don't think we felt, thought less of them or anything, but they were definitely, did not have the same opportunities that we had.
EC/MO: Okay. Did you watch TV and if so, what did you try to see every day or week? And what were some of your favorite regular shows?
MH: I don't think I watched television at all in college which is going to be the beginning of 1960, but the last thing I really remember was probably in the Fifties, "American Bandstand." And that was on every day after school, everybody rushed to watch "American Bandstand."
EC/MO: What instructor or course do you remember the most while you were in high school or college and why?
MH: Well, I think I had a history professor and I was so impressed with that, that's probably why I chose to major in history.
EC/MO: Did you think about the threat of nuclear war, or do you recall your understanding of the Cold War?
MH: I don't think I was particularly aware of that.
EC/MO: Did you participate in any peace movements or anti-nuclear movements?
MH: No, again, now you're still talking about when I was in college, or just in the Sixties?
MH: Well, no, to the contrary. You see my husband was shot down in Vietnam in 1965, and so it became pretty, not necessarily in the Sixties, in fact, in 1965, or `63. No wait, he went to Vietnam in `65. As he was training to go to Vietnam, I wasn't even sure, I remember looking at a map, I wasn't even sure where Vietnam was.
And also, Vietnamese soldiers, the South Vietnamese, were training in this country, and I remember seeing them on the Navy base, and I didn't even know who they were, I didn't know. I said what kind, you know, are they Japanese, or are they Chinese, you know, they were some kind of oriental people, and somebody said, "Oh, they're the Vietnamese," and I remember the first time saying, "Who are they?" And then six months, well, maybe a year later, my husband is in Vietnam.
But, as time went on, in the late Sixties, the anti-war people were definitely trying to use the POW families. They, the Vietnamese and the Viet, North Vietnamese, who the United States was fighting against, and were holding my husband prisoner, they were using this, and so one of. An example would be at one point, they let some of the prisoners write letters home to their families, which was not the usual circumstance. And these, and they gave it to these anti-war demonstrators, and they called and they would not, they said that I have a letter from your husband, but unless you will say that you are against the war, I won't give you the letter. So there was a lot of kind of blackmail type things for the families of prisoners.
EC/MO: So you obviously agreed to this, right?
MH: No, I did not.
EC/MO: So you did not see a letter?
MH: Well, no, I didn't, and finally, because I knew it's a little bit, I felt like, today they talk about terrorists. If you give in, then the stakes will just get higher and higher. And so sure enough, there were, I would say most of the wives did not cooperate with these groups, and then they realized they could not use us as pawns. And we ended up, they ended up giving, turning the letters over to the families anyway.
EC/MO: That's good. How old were, was your husband when he was drafted into the war?
MH: Well, he wasn't drafted. He actually enlisted, but he did, not because he really wanted to, but he would have been drafted had he not, because they were drafting everybody who didn't have children, or your chances were pretty good. So he decided to go into the Navy and he wanted to fly. And so, he was right out of college, he was twenty two years old.
EC/MO: Were you aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis?
MH: Oh yes. We lived in Key West, where he was training, and the whole beaches there had these big, you couldn't go to the beach, because there were these big guns, some kind of like cannon. I don't know what they were, but big kind of fat things, out on the beach, huge rolls of barb wire that, you know, nobody could get over. And then every once in a while, he would come home from flying and talk about a crop duster who had gotten in under the radar and, `cause they were trying to sneak in all the time. So I know about the Cubans trying to get out, and that crisis, and also living in Coral Gables, a lot of Cuban refugees came to Coral Gables during the period that I was in high school.
EC/MO: Was 1960 and the election of John F. Kennedy an important turning point for you? How did you respond to his assassination?
MH: Um, again, I was just graduating from high school and getting ready to go to college. And you know, I didn't think one thing or another of it. Really, I think my family probably was more Republican and probably did not support his candidacy, and that would have been my feeling.
EC/MO: Did you think that discrimination against people of color was a problem for the country as a whole?
MH: Um. It was definitely a problem. I'm not sure we have really solved the problem, or done the right thing by it. But I guess if you're not on the end that is being discriminated against, it's a little hard to understand.
EC/MO: Was discrimination against women a problem for you throughout your years in high school, or college, or even after college?
MH: Probably after college, when my husband was a Prisoner of War. I couldn't get a charge account, a charge card, because I was married, but my husband couldn't sign his name, and being married at that time, I had no legal rights on my own. My husband had those legal rights, so I couldn't have a charge card. I wanted to buy a house, I couldn't get a mortgage on a house.
EC/MO: When you explained your situation and everything, they just said like, I'm sorry?
MH: Right, because if they said, "Well, your husband could come home and say, `I'm not going to be good for this.' You know, `I didn't agree, I didn't sign.'" And towards the end, the government, the Navy in particular, came behind the women and they were sort of like cosigning notes and make, and again, things were beginning to change as far as women having more legal rights.
EC/MO: Did you follow political and social issues while you were in high school or college?
EC/MO: Civil rights. How about civil rights, antiwar or women's rights?
MH: Well, in college?
EC/MO: Or anytime.
MH: Anytime. Well, what was the last one?
EC/MO: Women's rights.
MH: Women's rights or anti, well, I'm not sure the Women's Movement, I mean that really sort of came after that, but, and the Civil Rights Movement, again, I think I was so involved in, I was very involved in political things while my husband was a POW. And so I turned my whole focus into that.
EC/MO: Were there any rallies or teach-ins or other demonstrations on campus or elsewhere?
MH: Not while I was in college, no.
EC/MO: Did you participate in any throughout your life at all?
EC/MO: What did you think of the people who did participate in these activities?
MH: Well, I think on one hand I felt that everyone had a right to their own beliefs. And there were a number of occasions when I guess I sort of met face to face, particularly on people who were against the war in Vietnam. And I thought sometimes, some of their beliefs, that they did not believe in war, and that they did not want to fight, I can understand that, that there are people who are pacifists, and I could accept that. I thought sometimes their feeling, that they didn't have all the information, and that they were sort of looking at things through a fairly narrow focus.
EC/MO: What were you aware of what happened at these events and what kind of impression did they make upon you?
MH: Well, there was one event, in particular, that made a very strong impression on me, and that was, I was very active in my church, and we had a young minister who came to our church as an assistant, and he was married and had a child, a little baby. And he was very strong in his opposition to the Vietnam War. And so he and I discussed the matter, and my whole church was really behind me and my, I had a daughter, and they were not happy at this man and his beliefs. He was sort of assigned to the church, but he and I had sort of come to an understanding and I think I learned his reasons for why he felt as he did. And I felt he, in turn, learned my feelings and why I though my husband was being treated cruelly and that that was not in accordance with how things were supposed to be. That it wasn't that the United States was not all wrong and the North Vietnamese were all good.
Well, anyway, the way the situation sort of ended, he participated in a march on Washington, and burned his draft card on public television on Easter Sunday, or somewhere right around Easter time, and I happened to have, my husband's mother was very ill, and I was away, and when I came back, I found that he had been basically fired. And he had been, I go to the Episcopal church, which is the ministers are in a priesthood, and he had actually, his priesthood, had been taken away from him for doing that. It, the older minister at my church had used my name and sort of said we can't have him doing that when we have this young woman in our church who's husband is suffering. And I felt very badly because I would not have done that to him. Not that what he did was right, but I think I would choose, because I was used as a scapegoat for letting him go.
EC/MO: Did that discourage you at all or anything like that?
MH: Well, I did not go back to that church. I was very upset that that had happened, and I did call the young minister. And I said I understand that you were told that I was the root of the, why they fired you. And he said, no, I understand. I know you and I have talked, I knew that it wasn't your fault.
EC/MO: When and where did you meet your husband?
MH: I met him in college, well, at a party, at his college.
EC/MO: What college did he go to?
MH: He went to Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. And I had actually had a blind date with one of his fraternity brothers.
EC/MO: When were you married?
MH: We were married in December 1963.
EC/MO: When were your three kids born?
MH: Our oldest daughter, Dabney, was born in 1965, before my husband was a Prisoner of War. And then we have a daughter, Emily who was born in 1974, a year and a half after he came home, and then we had a son that's eighteen now and he was born herein Rhode Island in 1980.
EC/MO: How do you feel about your husband's military service before Vietnam?
MH: Well, I wasn't excited about it. I was afraid of him flying airplanes. You know, afraid of there being an airplane crash.
EC/MO: Were you active in military wives' functions or activities?
MH: Yes, particularly after he was shot down. I was involved in a family organization called the National League of Families of the American Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. I was very involved in that. I was on the Board of Directors, and represented ten southern states.
EC/MO: Describe the life of a military wife in those early years.
MH: Well, right after he was shot down, he was actually declared killed for a year and a half. They thought he had been, his plane crashed and they didn't see a parachute, so I really thought I was a widow for a year and a half, and I moved with my infant daughter to Atlanta, Georgia, and sort of began a new, kind of a new life.
And then a year and a half later, I learned that he was not dead, but was probably a Prisoner of War. And so at that point, I got very involved in the family organization. I began seeing what I could do to make things better. And the families had begun a letter writing campaign, and initially, we were just trying to let people know about the plight of these men, and to make sure that our government was doing everything in its power to get them treated humanely and brought back home.
EC/MO: Do you know how they figured out he was still alive?
MH: Yes, I didn't find out that for a long time, but he had probably been a prisoner, oh, for about four and a half years, and I know now it was a spy.
EC/MO: For the year and half that you thought he was dead, did it every cross your mind that he was POW or did you think?
EC/MO: Do you recall how you felt when you husband left home for Vietnam?
MH: Whew! Pretty bad. It was probably one of the worse days in my life. I thought, you know, I knew what he was going into, and that there was a chance I might not see him again. But, I thought if I didn't see him, I mean, it never really occurred to me that he would be a Prisoner of War. I either thought he would be ki, you know, his plane would be shot down, or he would come back.
EC/MO: What plans did you make for the time he would be overseas?
MH: Well, I kept planning to go, to move to Virginia Beach, which was where his squadron would be placed and that that's where he would be when he came home from this cruise that was supposed to be six months long. And, I just kind of took care of, my daughter was born actually the day after he left. He got to come back to see her, but, so I was very busy with a new baby.
EC/MO: Did you receive, like ,updates on him, like, frequently, or anything like that?
MH: Nothing. They just. I was notified that he had not been killed, that they didn't think he had been killed in the plane crash, this was after a year and a half, but that they didn't know if he was still alive or anything. And then, they kept, the Navy and the military kept very closely in touch with me, and the first real information I got was from a sailor on a ship that fell overboard and was taken prisoner, and everybody, he just played like he was really dumb, that he was so dumb he had fallen off his ship, and, gone to sleep and fallen off his ship, and so they arranged, they let him come home early, thinking he knew nothing, and he had memorized over three hundred names, and my husband's name that were in prison, and my husband's name was one of those. So that was the first real confirmation I had that he was a Prisoner of War.
EC/MO: Wow. What about, like, before he was captured? When he was just serving? How long did he serve before he was shot down?
MH: Well, he was on the ship for six months before he was shot down. And you know, I got letters for him then and everything.
EC/MO: When he came back to see your daughter, how long did he stay, the day she was born?
MH: He stayed for about five days.
EC/MO: What were your personal views about the war?
MH: I thought the United States was justified I helping the Vietnamese people maintain their sovereignty and their independence from China. And at that time, I think we really felt this sort of Domino Theory; if one country fell to communism, that whole area, southeast Asia, would fall. And I'm not even sure until after the war did I realize that maybe the way we went about fighting the war wasn't right, but I'm not sure it was totally wrong, like some people do, did then and some people do now. I think under all the best information, that our government thought it was something they had to do. Just like we're in Bosnia now, and we have been in countries in Africa trying to save really the civilian population.
EC/MO: Did you approve or disapprove of the military tactics being used?
MH: I don't think I knew what the military tactics were. But now that I know that we went into the war with not really sure what our objectives were, and kind of mixed messages. I think now I definitely, I don't think that's the way to wage a war.
EC/MO: Did you work while your husband was in the service before Vietnam?
EC/MO: Was that, why or why not?
MH: A lot of women just did not work back then, and I had a, well, I really didn't have a child. We were moving, I guess initially, we were moving around. I mean, I could have been a school teacher or something, but I was with him in training, and so we didn't live one place. We lived in Pensacola for four months, we lived on St. Simon's Island for four months, and Virginia Beach for about two months, to Key West for six months, and then he went to Vietnam. So I really wasn't anywhere long enough to really get a job.
EC/MO: Did you work while he was a POW?
MH: Only as a volunteer involved in the POW movement, POW family movement.
EC/MO: What kinds of things did you do while he was in prison?
MH: Well, I did a lot of things with my daughter. And, you know, a lot of things that young families do, you know, go to the zoo, take her to things. And I participated with lots of other, I had lots of friends who all of them had husbands, but that was good, too, because then Dabney was around them. And again, I was very, very involved in the family organization. I gave lots of talks to school groups, I talked to rotary clubs, I talked to, you name it, I talked to them.
EC/MO: Where did you get most of your information about the outside world?
MH: Probably from the newspaper and television.
EC/MO: What did you think of the TV news?
MH: Well, the TV news was, I was captive. The whole time my husband was in Vietnam, I probably never missed a television newscast because, you know, it was always about Vietnam, and to see what had happened. But, particularly, I was reminded during the Gulf War where now television news is instantly, you know, what is happening over there, it's like a telephone call. It's almost right now, but I felt very lucky during the Vietnam War, because the news would come over, and it would be so horrible, but it was something that had happened like twelve hours before, and so my feeling is, you know, my husband is safe. I know he's okay. I would have heard by now had it been something, and my heart really goes out to people who have to actually watch something on television, and sort of the horror of the whole thing.
EC/MO: Did you feel you were getting accurate information?
MH: Yes. I mean, I had sort of an inside track, too, in that not only was I watching the news, but then the Navy was very closely in touch and monitoring, you know, what was happening in various places.
EC/MO: Did the government provide wives of POW's with information not available to the general public?
MH: Well, a little bit. They didn't tell us any top secrets, that's for sure. But I think they were very reassuring.
EC/MO: And how did they provide you with the information?
MH: Well the wives, we met as a whole group in Washington, that's where all of our meetings. we had a national headquarters there. And we met twice a year, and people from the Department of the Defense would come, the President would come. I mean, our group was one that everybody wanted to help and really rallied behind us. And then, in my position on the Board of Directors, I actually met with White House Staff every three weeks.
EC/MO: How and when did you learn that his plane had been shot down?
MH: Well, the military has sort of a rule that they have to notify the family with twenty four hours. And two men knocked on the door with uniforms on and that's a bad sign.
EC/MO: So what first went through you mind?
MH: That he had been killed. I mean, I knew exactly why they were there.
EC/MO: Could you describe your feelings and your reactions?
MH: Well, I mean, it's the knock on the door you never want to hear.
EC/MO: What was your life like during the first two years of his capture?
MH: Well, the first year and a half, again, I thought I was, you know, didn't have a husband. And I think I felt that I, you know, I was trying I moved to a new place, I was meeting new friends, I was trying to make a good home for myself. And I was just trying to keep a stiff upper lip and do the best I could. You know, it's hard. That was pretty early in the war and I didn't know anybody else who was a widow at twenty four years old.
EC/MO: What do you remember about an average day?
MH: Well, I think. I always set aside, even at the beginning when I found out he was a prisoner, when there wasn't, when I wasn't doing a lot of speaking and all of that, I did set aside about, I don't know what the period of time was, but I did set aside a period of time that I would write. I think I tried to write fifteen letters per night to either members of Congress, foreign countries, telling them about my situation and the fact that I had information to believe that the North Vietnamese were not abiding by the Geneva convention which they had signed, which meant that they should tell the names of all the people they held as prisoners, as well as treat them humanely.
EC/MO: Do you believe those helped out a lot or not, your letters?
MH: My husband said that that's the only reason he is home. That what the wives did really made a difference, that public opinion really worked against the Vietnamese.
EC/MO: So a lot of other wives did that too?
EC/MO: What do you remember about a holiday or a special day like a birthday or an anniversary?
MH: Well, those were pretty hard times because everybody else was with the people that they loved. And I think my friends, I really didn't have any family, my mother died when I was in college, and my father and I kind of, and we were not that close, and I'm an only child. And so, but I had a lot of good friends, and they were always very good about including me in on holiday celebrations and all.
And sometimes, I would go, but then there were other times that, I don't know how to describe it, but you know sometimes of you are really feeling bad, you just kind of want to feel bad, and you just have to kind of get it out of your system, and so there were definitely, I remember a couple of times, somebody saying why don't you come and do this, and I said, "No, you know, I just need to. I just need to kind of suffer this one out."
EC/MO: When and how did you learn that he was alive and a POW?
MH: Well, I mentioned that this young sailor who fell of the ship brought his name out. And when his plane, the plane he was on landed in Washington, the first thing he said when he was met by debriefers and all, the story is, he rattled off the three hundred and some names, which he had memorized alphabetically by date of shoot down. All the men memorized that in case they escaped or something, because they knew, from people who were shot down after them, they knew that nobody really knew who was there. And so that was their prime thing to be able to get that information out.
And then, so, but, so Doug Hegdal made me really feel good that he was there. And he didn't know that he'd bring things wrong with him. Then five years after he was a POW, the Prime Minister of Sweden, who had, Sweden had relations with the North Vietnamese. They, and that was one of the persons, countries, that I wrote most of all was Sweden, hoping that they would use their influence, and sure enough, the Prime Minister of Sweden got from the North Vietnamese a list of prisoners that they admitted they had. And my husband's name was on them. And then I got the first letter from him, about and they said I would be getting a letter, and they let those men write.
EC/MO: What did the letter say?
MH: Well, its like a little postcard, and it only had five lines, and it had little instructions. So he could only write on those lines, and he didn't know, he was just telling me over and over again that he was all right and he hoped I was okay. You know, he was real general.
EC/MO: Was the group that you were involved in was that the wives of POW's?
MH: Well, it was also mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, any family member could belong.
EC/MO: Did you meet or communicate on a regular basis?
EC/MO: How often was that?
MH: Well, a lot of us were good friends, because, you know, we got to know each other, and there was some people that I communicated with informally, you know, every day or every couple of days. But we met, the Board met, every three weeks in Washington, the Board of Directors, and then we would have two annual meetings a year, where all the families were invited and there were lots of information sessions, an opportunity for them to meet other people, and all of that.
EC/MO: What were some of the things you found particularly helpful during that time?
MH: Well, definitely my good friends, my faith, other families who were going through the same thing, other wives that I got to know.
EC/MO: You had a very young child, and did you do anything special to prepare her to understand where her dad was?
MH: Well, it think I was really lucky because she was really a baby, and because I was very involved in the family thing, I talked about my husband all the time, and her father. And I had lots of pictures around, and she was probably about maybe three to four years old when she went to the first speech I gave, and she would hand out these little informational brochures to people about who they could write letters to and that kind of thing, and so she kind of grew up. I'd never kept any secrets. You know, I started talking about it in front of her before she could even understand, and so I think she just grew up.
And kind of a little funny story that, when we, when she went to kindergarten, we had just, she and I had moved. And so she went to a kindergarten and they had, you know, how they have the night when all the parents come to the kindergarten. And I noticed, I kept thinking that people were sort of staring at me, and then I kept thinking, "that's really silly." So finally, after a while, this one woman came up to me and she said, "Are you the one who's husband is in the state penitentiary?" And everybody had been talking, all the children had been talking about what their daddies did, and my daughter said that her father was a prisoner. I'm sure she said he was a Prisoner of War, but you know, then they went home and said oh, so and so in our class is a prisoner. And so everybody were really wondering, you know, who is this who's dad is in jail, and so then the teacher wrote a little note home to all the parents, don't worry, there's not this bad family in our kindergarten.
EC/MO: Was that one little letter that you received, was that the only one?
MH: No, I got thirteen letters in all.
EC/MO: Were they all the same? Did they just say, like, I'm okay?
MH: No, but it was not like, you know, he never answered really any of my questions, and I'm not sure he ever knew where I was. He actually I think got. I got thirteen of these letters. But now, the other crazy thing is, like, he had been there for five years, so I got all those thirteen letters in the last year and a half, and one time, like six of them came in one day. And they were not necessarily chronolo-. You know, I don't know what happened. He probably wrote. I didn't ask him how many letters he wrote, but according to the Geneva convention, I was supposed to be able to write one letter per month, and I wrote one letter a month for seven and a half years. Now I don't know how many letters that is, but, you know, he again got maybe under twenty five.
EC/MO: How long were your letters? Were they the same?
MH: The same. I wrote on this same little form.
EC/MO: So, could you get packages to him?
MH: Well, supposedly I could send a package every other month, and it could only have things, like health. Again, in the letter, you were only supposed to write about health and family. You know, nothing political or anything like that, and he did say they were censored. You know, he would see things that were marked out in the letters. And when he wrote letters, they obviously read them. And this package was a little, I figured out the size box that it would sort of take, and I would put chewing gum in it, hard candy. I think I always put socks, because I know he has a pair of socks that he brought back that I sent him, underwear, pictures. I sent pictures and he, I think I sent like tuna fish in a can, and some stuff like that, cigarettes. But it could only weight two and a half pounds, and that is nothing. It was, the box was about the size for a big phone directory, or kind of this letter tray here.
And, because it, of course, since it could only weight two and half pounds, I wanted it to be a close as possible, and so everybody at the post office was really nice. They would let me come in, I would go into the post office, and I would have a whole big bag of stuff, and I had my couple little boxes, and I would sit there and put stuff in it, and then put it on the scale, and they, you know, I didn't have to stand in line of anything. And.
[Knock on door]
EC/MO: About the pictures that you sent him, were they of the family, and?
MH: Yes. And I sort of spent probably the first two to three years that I was writing letters, telling him where I was living, because I had moved someplace he probably would have never guessed I would have moved.
And again, kind of a sort of interesting thing, and sure enough, he had not idea, and the first letter I got from him was addressed to Marty Halyburton, United States of America, and you know, a lot of people have a lot of bad things to say about our postal service, but I was looking for the letter, because remember I told you that old Prime Minister of Sweden said that a number of POW's, everybody on the list, was, had been allowed to write a letter, so that I should be getting a letter within the next month, so needless to say, I was always around when the postman came, and again, then I worried, now how was I going to get this letter if he has no idea, where is he going to address it?
So one day, I happened to be at the grocery store, and all of a sudden, my mailman shows up at the grocery store looking for me. He said, "You've got to come home," and I knew. I said, "The letter's come." And he said, "Yes." And he said, "No, I'm not going to give it to you here," but I was just a couple of blocks, so I went home, and I lived in an apartment complex, and he, when he had come to deliver the mail, you know, he had asked, he hadn't just put it in the mailbox, he knew where this North Vietnam and he know what it was, I think, and I had been asking for the letter. And so when I got back, there must have been fifty people that lived in this apartment complex that were home in the middle of the day that were all there, you know, waiting for me. You know, it was really exciting and so the postman, and so he found me in the grocery store to deliver this letter that didn't even have my address on it.
EC/MO: Besides the wives' group that you were involved in, what else helped you to cope, like church?
MH: I was very involved in my church. I taught Sunday School and I worked with the youth group. I was a member of an organization, a volunteer organization in Atlanta, so I did a lot of volunteer at an art museum, and a lot of community service work.
EC/MO: Was your role as a wife of a POW defined for you by anyone? Like the military or your family?
MH: I think my example might have been Sibyl Scottdale, whose husband was a Prisoner of War. In fact, he was the highest ranking Prisoner of War, and Sibyl is the woman who founded the National League of Families, the family organization. And actually, her husband, when he came home, came here as resident of the War college, and we came here and served under him, and Jim Scottdale went on to run with Ross Perot on the vice presidential ticket. And he has the Congressional medal of honor, is definitely a very outstanding man, and his wife is equally as outstanding.
EC/MO: Was your husband in the Air Force or?
EC/MO: How did you feel about people like Jane Fonda and Joan Biaz going to Hanoi?
MH: I knew that they were torturing, to get the information that they got. They didn't realize it, but I knew from the Navy like the men that they would interview were kind of doing crazy things, and one of the things that they were doing with Morse code, was I've been, they were saying I've been tortured to give this interview. And Jane Fonda didn't quite pick up on that, but it was all televised, and the Navy did. And so there were little, you know, these men were trained and so they got out little secret things from that, so of course I didn't like her because she was saying how wonderful it was in the prison camps, but she was never in a real prison camp.
EC/MO: When and how did you learn about your husband's release?
MH: Again, it was no big secret. It was all over television and I knew that when the Paris Peace Talks were signed, one of the things was that all the prisoners were to be released and that within, I think it was thirty days, the release was going to begin. And the way they were going to be released was, I can't remember how many groups, they came out in either four or six groups, about three weeks apart, and the sick and injured came out first, and then by order of shoot down, so the ones who had been there the longest came out. So that pretty much guaranteed my husband would be in the first group.
And then it was all televised. So I watched him get off the airplane in the Philippines. They flew from Hanoi, and I think by that time, again, there was still that twelve hour delay, and so I saw there were, I think there were photographs when the American plane landed in Hanoi to pick the prisoners up, I saw those, too. So I was very well prepared, and again, the Navy was in, I probably talked to them two to three times per day on the telephone, you know, every time they had some information. They were wonderful about keeping us informed.
EC/MO: What was his condition when he arrived? Was he really, like, was he one of the injured people?
MH: No, he was not injured, and they had definitely during the whole peace talks, when the knew the war was coming to an end, they began feeding them better, so he was definitely thin, but not.
EC/MO: Like what he used to be when he first was captured?
MH: Yeah. Because he actually lost a lot of weight on the ship because it was really hard work, and very tension-filled, and so he was thin, but he was in very good shape.
EC/MO: How did you tell your daughter when you learned about his release?
MH: Well, again, I didn't know how he was and how he was going to look, but it was televised on all, then we didn't have cable and all this other television, we just had like three network channels, and the television stations were wonderful. Of course they are all wanting interviews and everything, so I was very busy, you know, doing that, during particularly right when he came home, and they gave me three television sets so that I could watch them. And also, it was in the days before video, VCR's, and they gave me a huge thing that was a recorder and they made tapes, and so I could watch it. They gave it to me, gave me this machine to keep in my house.
EC/MO: How big was it?
MH: Oh God, it was this big thing like this. So they, anyway, it was announced that the prisoners would be landing in the Philippines and that was the first anybody was going to get to see them, but it was like, my time, it was 4:30 in the morning. And I had about twenty people, my really good friends, had come over to my house and my little girl, she was seven then, and I kind of, I didn't want her to see him right then because I didn't know if he was injured, I didn't know what he would look like or anything, and each of the men stepped off the airplane and shook hands with whoever the dignitaries were, and so you really got a good picture of them. And I immediately recognized my husband, and he looked absolutely great. I got, you know, they kind of held the camera for a little bit and I got a great, and so then I woke my daughter up, and, `cause then they replayed it. And so she could watch it again.
EC/MO: Where was that, in the Philippines?
MH: Well, that's where the plane from Hanoi landed in the Philippines, and all the prisoners spent about four days in the Philippines, and they debriefed them to find out any, if there was any, `cause not everybody came home, to find out all this information while it was still fresh in their minds, and also to check them out medically.
EC/MO: Do you remember the date?
MH: February 12, 1973.
EC/MO: What were the most difficult aspects of his return for you?
MH: You know, I, there really were not any. I think because I had been very involved and even though he had been away, believe it or not, it sounds kind of crazy, but it really wasn't like he had been away. And the other thing that helped, while, the four days that he was in the Philippines, they said that we could have two telephone calls a day. But I think they immediately realized that that was not enough. And I imagine that I probably talked to him an average of maybe six hours a day. I talked to him a couple time days a day, like for an hour, an hour and a half, so we really got very well acquainted on the telephone.
And then another thing, again, this was just the breaking news story. And they had a Navy Exchange, which is like a department store on the base, in the Philippines. And now remember, my husband hasn't seen what anybody has been wearing for seven and half years, and now, men all had sideburns and bell bottom pants, that was sort of the style, and so he went shopping. And he called me, and I talked to him, and he said, "Oh, we got together to go shopping." And he said, "I bought you some presents and I bought Dabney some presents," and so in our conversation, and then the next night, he said, "It might be on the news, there was somebody, you know, they had cameras in there." So he said, "You might look on the news and maybe you'll see me."
And so the next night, I was watching the national news, and, you know, they were telling what the POW's had done that day. And sure enough, they start in the store, and they start at this man, and he told me he bought these plaid pants, and so they started at this man down at the floor, because he didn't have any clothes, and these plaid pants, and I thought, I wonder if that's Porter, and sure enough, as they moved up, the camera moved up, it was him. And they happened to follow him on this whole shopping trip, so I probably got to see, I mean, it's probably not more then three to four minutes, which is actually pretty long on TV, of him shopping.
EC/MO: That was before you saw him, right?
EC/MO: What were the most difficult aspects of his return for him?
MH: Well, you might have to wait to check the other interview. You know, I'm not really, maybe just not knowing things, like he would ask me, people would ask him a question, like what do you think about something, and it was obvious he had no clue.
We went on a trip on an airplane, and of course he was a celebrity, and so they put us in First Class. And he happened to sit next to this woman who was very famous, or she sat across the hall, and she got in this conversation with him, and he kept, and she introduced herself, and it turned out to be Jean Dixon, she was just like, she made all these predictions, and she was very famous back then, and she just assumed, and he had no clue who Jean Dixon was. And afterwards, and you know, he kept trying to, you know, say, who is this, what is the deal with her? But you know, he just didn't, he'd missed out on a lot.
EC/MO: Was it hard for your daughter when he got back?
MH: No, again, I think she had, he had been very much a part of her life, even though he was away. And they hit it off, and it wasn't strange at all.
EC/MO: Describe the first few weeks or a month after his return.
MH: Well, pretty exciting. He had to go to a hospital, which all the POW's had to go to a hospital when they came home. Again, because of their diet, they all had parasites, and worms, and so they had to be treated for that and they wanted to check them over very carefully. And a lot of them, remember, hadn't been to a dentist, and you know, my husband hadn't been to a dentist in seven and half years, and he did have to have his wisdom teeth out and things like that.
And also, they wanted to debrief them even further. So I met him at Jacksonville, the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, which was the closest to where I was living in Atlanta, and we actually stayed there for three weeks. But it was a whole lot of fun in that the car agencies gave us a free car, people loaned us a fancy, you know, beach house to stay in, and we just would go to the hospital during the day, and then go to this beach house at night, and people couldn't do enough.
And then, when he got out of the hospital, he came back. We went to the White House for a big dinner at the White House. We went to Disney World, Disney gave us a week's free everything at Disney World for one week. We went to New York for a week, I mean, it was, I can't tell you. I mean it was a shame it was all so close together, because, you know, I don't even remember the details of all of it, so much was happening. But people were really wonderful.
EC/MO: Was that for all the POW's?
EC/MO: How did they become celebrities, like, if there were so many, like, they would probably only briefly hear about them, right?
MH: Well, the newspapers played them up, and so that's why all these companies, Ford Motor Company gave us a free Ford for a year to drive, just, we got lifetime passes to any National League, or some baseball thing. And just people were really, you know, wanted to thank these men for what they had done. And I think again, you know, at that particular time, there had been so much bad press about Vietnam, and so much about people had come home, and the men who had come home, and what they had fought for and suffered for had not been acknowledged, and it was a little bit sad. These men sort of got all the glory and there were a lot of other people who deserved it just as much.
EC/MO: Did you make plans for the future with you husband when he came home?
MH: Well, he had made a lot of plans, cause he had spent seven and a half years in prison thinking about what he was going to do when he got home, and so he had made plans. He had designed a house he wanted to build. He talked about trips he wanted to take, and everything, but in many ways what we really found we wanted to do was just sort of be ordinary people, and get on with an ordinary life.
EC/MO: Were there any long range concerns you had about his health or, both physically and mentally?
EC/MO: Do you have any lasting effects from this experience of him coming home?
MH: Oh, well.
EC/MO: Or as he was staying there?
MH: Yeah, well, I think one time, he hadn't been home very long, and he was giving a speech one night, and I was, I went with him, and he said something that I think I feel, too. He said, "I wouldn't do it again for a million dollars, but I would take a million dollars for what I learned." And I think I feel like that, too. It was a bad time, in many ways, it was a time, for me, of a lot of uncertainty, not knowing how he was, if he was there, not knowing when he would come home, but yet I learned. I learned a whole lot. I was twenty six years old and I was, I actually worked for Governor Carter, who became president in Georgia. I got to know him through the POW experience, because he was very supportive of the, in Georgia, where I was living.
Again, I was very, I was involved with the Secretary of Defense, Henry Kissinger, and meeting with him, and I learned to value a lot of things that people take for granted. And I think probably the thing I'm sorriest about now is that it was so long ago that I tend to forget a lot of these lessons. And I was reminded of them in the Gulf War, which, you know, when we were watching it on television, that sort of brought the whole thing back to me, and then I was reminded of it last week when my husband and I attended a dinner at the Nixon Library in California. It was a tribute to the POW's and it was the twenty fifth anniversary of the time we had been at the White House.
EC/MO: Looking back, how did this experience affect you and your marriage?
MH: Well, again, I think it helped us realize the things that were really important in life, and that sometimes people get all caught up in complaining about little things. And so I think if you went into this with a strong marriage, you probably came out with a strong marriage. And I think there have been a lot of divorces, but I understand the statistics are not that much really higher then regular people.
EC/MO: Do you keep in touch with other prisoner's wives?
EC/MO: What, do you get together for reunions or events?
MH: Well, the men all get together for reunions, and so the wives go. The sad part for me is that there were a lot of men who did not come back, missing. And those men, their wives don't come to this, so there are a lot of wives that I've sort of lost touch with. But when I was in California last week, with Sibyl Scottdale, who was head of the Women's group, I said, you know, we need to have a get together for all the wives, whether their husbands were Prisoners of War or missing and then presumed dead, that it would be nice to be with them again.
EC/MO: Did your feelings about the war change after your husband came home?
MH: No, I think as time has gone on, and as my husband teaches here at the War College, I think I understand, and as I've gotten older, I understand how complex the issue is. And I'm glad I'm not the President or the Commander in Chief and have to make those decisions that, you know, there's not always a clear right and there's not always a clear wrong, that things are very complicated, and that sometimes people with the best of intentions make mistakes. And there were certainly, and it is really easy twenty five years later to look back and see the mistakes, where as at the time, I think, I think our country went into it with honest and good intentions.
EC/MO: Do you think the government handled the situation well?
MH: No. I mean, I think the war was not handled well.
EC/MO: About, how.
MH: With the families. I feel that I was handled, have no, nothing to complain about. I have only praise for the government's treatment of the wives and families.
EC/MO: What do you think they could have improved on?
MH: For the wives and families?
MH: Well, again, having a clear goal and a clear purpose and to send that many men, American men, into a situation that our government, even, was not totally behind. I mean, a lot of lives were lost, a lot of people were wounded. I think a lot of people came back and thought that and were told that what they did was wrong and a waste, and their lives were badly affected by that. And so, you know, that's tragic.
EC/MO: Which of the following events form 1968 made an impression on you? Describe your response and feelings. I'm just going to read off a list. Okay, the escalation of the Vietnam War conflict, like the bombing of North Vietnam, the troop build-up and the Viet Cong Tet defense.
MH: The bombing of North Vietnam. We had stopped bombing and I felt things were at a standstill, the war was going to go on forever, and ever, and ever, and although I was worried that my husband might be bombed, since he was there, I was ready to take the chance.
EC/MO: How about the troop buildup or the Viet Cong?
MH: Um, well, the War just kept escalating, and yet we didn't seem to be making progress. I mean that was a concern. I mean, we weren't, we were not winning, so I was concerned about that. I mean, I was really, all these, I felt everything that happened in Vietnam one way or another effected my husband, so I was felt, took it personally.
EC/MO: How about Lyndon Johnson's announcement on TV that he would not run for the presidency a second time?
MH: At the time, I didn't know what it meant. But he was not really committed to the POW's and Nixon was. And the whole, our government's attention to the families totally changed and their insistence that these men be, that they would not leave Vietnam without these men. I think, I mean, Nixon said he would never leave Vietnam without these men leaving there, and I believed him, and he was good to his word.
EC/MO: How about the assassination of Martin Luther King?
MH: I lived in Atlanta during that period. And I remember the day he was assassinated, and I remember since I was a single woman, some older people telling me not to go anywhere, that, I mean, people were afraid that there would be burning and looting. And not long after that I traveled to Washington for one of these meetings, and sure enough, there were whole sections of town that had been burned, and I couldn't understand it, because the blacks were burning their own neighborhoods down, and I couldn't figure out what is that proving, I mean.
EC/MO: How about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy?
MH: Um, you know it was just tragic that there seemed to be people who feel that they can solve problems by killing somebody, you know, I was saddened by that.
EC/MO: The Columbia University sit-in and other student demonstrations against the War and the draft?
MH: Um, you know, I would read about them in the paper. But, again, I felt like maybe they didn't have all the information, that you know, they sort of like, a lot of people were doing it just because that was the thing to do.
EC/MO: How about Senator Eugene McCarthy's campaign for presidency?
MH: Um, I thought that if he became President, my husband, I'd never see my husband again.
EC/MO: How about, so you opposed him?
EC/MO: Governor George Wallace's campaign?
MH: Um, well, because of his stand on blacks, I could have never supported him.
EC/MO: The Democratic Convention in Chicago?
MH: I don't have an opinion.
EC/MO: Were you just unaware of that at the time?
MH: Yeah, I, wait, is that the one with, was that the one when McGovern .
EC/MO: With what?
MH: Who was?
EC/MO: Do you remember what the Democratic Convention was all about?
MH: Would that have been the one with McGovern?
EC/MO: Um, I'm not sure, but, you don't have a comment on that?
MH: No, I don't have a comment on that.
EC/MO: Okay. How about Hubert Humphrey's candidacy?
MH: Um, I remember voting for him, I remember going to vote. Standing in a long line, but, and, I was not, and I remember my daughter, I had mentioned something about it, you know, I guess she had asked me, she was with me in line, and I remember her telling everybody about who I was voting for, and I thought, oh, I don't know if I want that broadcast.
EC/MO: How about the election of Richard Nixon?
MH: Well, I was definitely for that.
EC/MO: What opinions were you?
MH: Well, again, he had promised to bring the war to a close in Vietnam with honor. And I'm not sure, he brought the POW's home. I don't know what more he could have done. You know, it didn't end, a lot of Vietnamese suffered terribly when the United States pulled out, but the American people were not behind it. He didn't really have a choice.
EC/MO: Were you satisfied with his performance?
MH: Yes. I was a huge supporter of his.
EC/MO: The Women's Liberation demonstration at the Miss America Pageant?
MH: I don't even know about that. I missed that one.
EC/MO: The expulsion of the Olympic athletes for their Black Power salute during the playing of the National Anthem at the medal ceremonies?
MH: Um, you know, I remember that, and I don't know, I thought they came to support, you support our country, and that just made a more divisive, that was more divisive then.
EC/MO: How about the Space Program and the circling of the moon by the US astronauts?
MH: Um, I guess I was for that, but again, I was more involved and more concerned about Vietnam than outer space.
EC/MO: Overall, how would you say the Sixties affected you and the US in general?
MH: Well, I guess for a ten year period, the way it began probably very conservative, and basically at peace, and then ended, were so very different. I don't know if there has been a ten years that there has been that much change in people's attitudes and beliefs ever, certainly in my lifetime, not.
EC/MO: What were the most important changes of the Sixties?
MH: Um, I'd say probably the most important changes, I think certainly the fact that Civil Rights, women's rights, sort of everyone, everyone felt they had a right for something, and maybe they were not as concerned about other people, thinking mostly of themselves, and that they got what they wanted.
EC/MO: And which did you feel were most positive and negative?
MH: Um, well, I think, positive and negative, I think, possibly, the, I think we had a whole shift to very liberal, again, very liberal thinking, and very selfish, and I think that was very negative, and it was not so much as what we can do for other people, but what they can do for me. And kind of a not caring, do your own thing. And so, in many ways, I think it was a pretty negative period of time.
EC/MO: Some people feel that drug use and the counter culture were the most important aspects of the 1960's and others feel that aspect was overplayed in the media. What do you think?
MH: I'm not sure that there was really drug use and all before Vietnam. I certainly don't remember when I was in high school or college, you know, anything about drug use. I mean, people drank and people smoked cigarettes, and that was about the extent of it, and so that was certainly, and how that exploded, you know, and became such a major thing, but whether or not it was exaggerated I don't know.
EC/MO: How would you compare the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon?
MH: Um. Well, I think Kennedy, he was certainly, he was the first Catholic president, and I think he certainly sort of showed that it didn't matter what maybe your race or religion was, that you could be president. And I think he certainly, he was a young president, and I think that was important too at that particular time.
Johnson, I don't know, I was never too taken with him.
And then, was it Nixon? Again, I was definitely a Nixon fan because he was committed to honorably bring the war in Vietnam to an end, and that had certainly torn our nation apart, destroyed families, killed far too many men, and there was no way that things could go. I mean, that had to end. And he seemed to have the best idea to ending it.
EC/MO: Have the changes in women's rights and position in society been a positive or negative thing and did things go too far or not far enough?
MH: I think they definitely have been positive. I think women have a lot more options then they did. Certainly when I got out of college, I guess I could have been a school teacher, that's what. you know, I majored in history, but I got what it took to be able to teach. Um, and now I think women's, opportunities for women are certainly, they can do anything they want. You don't have to be a weirdo to try it.
EC/MO: What do you think African Americans have accomplished since the start of the Civil Rights Movement?
MH: Um, well again, like women, I think the sky's the limit for them, that doors are open for them that were not, certainly not before, and that much of the inequality has been erased. I mean, there is still poverty and the fact that, there's a larger percentage of blacks that are impoverished, you know, that doesn't mean that, that's really not a sign of inequality, I don't think, it's just socio-economic reality.
EC/MO: When the war finally ended what were your feelings?
MH: Uh, well when the war ended and the United States pulled out of Vietnam, that was a very sad time for me because I knew that that meant death or imprisonment to all the South Vietnamese who had been on the side of the Americans, and the fact that we couldn't get them all out of the country. And I just can't image, you know, I was trying to image what that would be like, living in that, you know, if I were them. And you know, we never went through anything like that.
EC/MO: Looking back at the Vietnam conflict from the perspective of the Nineties has your opinion changed?
MH: Again, I think I know now with the time passed, I think a lot has come to light about how our government even was divided on how best to handle that conflict, and with hindsight we see some of the mistakes that we made.
EC/MO: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial?
EC/MO: How do you feel about young people like us still striving to answer questions about American involvement in the Vietnam War and the whole decade of the 1960's?
MH: Well, I think it's really interesting that you are interested because it's something that my generation that lived through it, and we don't have the answers, either. We know a lot more about it, but I guess, hopefully, that's what history is all about, that you learn from past mistakes, and that's what my husband teaches here at the War College. They teach. he teaches strategy and policy, and that's through history, various situations, and how they can help us avoid those mistakes and then make the right decisions.
And so, again, I think particularly as we struggle with helping people in other parts of the world, Bosnia, African countries, whether our government gets involved or not, I think we can look back to Vietnam, which is, we went in there not to conquer them, but to preserve freedom for these people, and that's what we say we're doing, so I think we have to look at what we did wrong and what we could have done differently, and hopefully make this a better world for everyone.
EC/MO: Did you have a job while your husband was gone at war?
EC/MO: How did you make an income?
MH: I was paid his salary.
EC/MO: How did the Memorial affect you when you went to see it?
MH: Well, it was very moving to me because the man that was in the plane with my husband, his name is on the wall. And I knew how close my husband came to his name being on that wall, too. And my first cousin, who was a helicopter pilot, my son is named after him, and he was killed in Vietnam. And looking over, I knew a handful of people whose names were on that wall, and just, have you been to there?
EC/MO: No, I've seen the pictures of it.
MH: It is incredible. And again, I think it's, you know, when you see how many names, the fact that its not a statue symbolizing, it's each individual, so I think that's meaningful. And then the fact that you are up in a beautiful park, and then as you go down the wall, it's so long, you go down basically underground. The ground is up above, and the wall is really high in places, in the middle, and there's a lot of people. It was very controversial, and they say it's a dark pit, it's ugly, it's like the war was. And every war is ugly, and then you're in the midst of it, and then you come up to land again, and so I think it's like the Vietnam War that it was certainly something that our country was divided about. It certainly, like any war, is more bad then good, but yet our country was able to get through it and we, we're here today and we made it through.
EC/MO: What is your son's name and who was he named after?
MH: His name is John Fletcher, and he's named after my first cousin, John Fletcher, who was a helicopter pilot killed in Vietnam.
EC/MO: While you husband was gone and you thought he was killed, did you look for like another husband at all or anything?
MH: I was dating people, but I wasn't ready to get married yet.
EC/MO: What advice would you give to students like us?
MH: Like you?
MH: Um. Well, I guess. You know, what I would tell my own children. You know, make the most of, of those talents you have and try to be the best you can be, and try to live your life so that it benefits other people.
EC/MO: Is there anything you would like to go back on and discuss?
MH: No. I think, I think we pretty well covered it.
EC/MO: Alright, thank you.