Mr. David Haist was an air controller on the frigate Halsey and served
from 1964 to 1967. He held the very important job of reporting American
aircrafts which had been shot down near the Tonkin Gulf. He also was
an officer to many crewmen aboard the ship. Mr. Haist left for Vietnam
in the early stages of the war and had the unfortunate circumstance of
returning to the U.S. when the anti-war protests were starting to gain
Mr. Haist’s multiple experiences and love of history give him a
full perspective on the war in Vietnam and help shed a lot of light
on just what happened in Vietnam. His recollections not only paint
a clear picture of Vietnam, but also help draw connections to the current
war in Iraq. He is a staunch advocate of the theory that once you enter
a war, you must see it through to the very end. Overall Mr. Haist is a very
wonderful man whose experiences can help many people learn about the Vietnam
[Mr. Haist began by pointing out his location on a map]
Mr. Haist: This is pretty much where we steamed, between where Vinh is
right here, and up here near Hi Fong, by Hanoi right there. And here is
the ship that I was on [shows a picture]. So that’s where we were,
and we were pretty close to where the Maddox was, a destroyer that may
not have been attacked, it’s up in the air still, I’m sure
that’s what you’ve heard. I might have a chance to tell you
a story, that I find interesting. Anyways what our job was; we were a
SAR ship. A SAR ship is a “search and rescue ship”. We weren’t
only up [in the Tonkin gulf] but we also spent some time down here, in
Da Nang, and we spent some time in the country of South Vietnam. Most
of the time we were up [in North Vietnam] off the coast. A SAR ship, a
“search and rescue ship” is a ship whose job it is to pick
up pilots that got shot down. So, we were there to rescue the pilots that
got shot down, We had a little helicopter on the end of our ship, and
we’d carry the little helicopter with us. So we’d watch all
the strikes going in and out of North Vietnam, whether they came from
the Navy which came down from the carriers, from the south, or over from
the Air Force that came from Tak Li, which is over in Thailand. We’d
monitor all the flights that went into North Vietnam. If they got shot
down, which happened everyday, then our job was to try to go in as best
we could, with the helicopter, and rescue the pilots, pick them up, and
get them out. That’s pretty much a search and rescue operation.
So that’s this book. And [here] it says “SAR alert”.
You may have seen it on T.V. when they go to general quarters and they
ring the bells, and everyone runs and they ask the ships to go to battle
stations? Well, that’s what this is right here. Whenever a pilot
got shot down, over the loudspeaker they’d say “SAR alert.”
And everyone would go to battle stations, and try to get the helicopter
up and flying in the air and vector it into where the pilot was shot down,
Q: Well that’s
incredible. Modestly speaking.
Mr. Haist: Now here’s the ship we were on, the Halsey. You may
have read about him, he was an Admiral in World War II, his name was
Bull Halsey. The ship was named after him. The ship was called a DLG-23,
and if you look in the back you can see the helicopter, we carried it
right there, in the stern of the ship. You can see [in this picture]
the helicopter here, and all of the rescues that are [on the side of
the helicopter]. These are night rescues, the one’s with the little
moon right there. And the ones without the moon are the daytime rescues
right there. Here’s a pilot we picked up right here for example,
who got shot down. Here’s another that got shot down, another
that got shot down, another one, and there’s a couple that got
shot down that we picked up. Here’s a helicopter that got shot
down by the North Vietnamese, actually, who crashed right by our ship.
They were trying to do a little raid on North Vietnam, and they got
shot up and crashed right alongside our ship right there. The man inside
of it was killed, unfortunately, by the North Vietnamese troops. Anyways,
that’s it, that’s our ship.
Q: So it was mostly the North Vietnamese that would do the shooting
Mr. Haist: We didn’t actually shoot at the North Vietnamese ourselves,
we were very safe, out in the Ocean, the Tonkin Gulf in other words.
We’d steam up and down the Tonkin Gulf and watch from the radar
or intelligence information. We’d watch all the flights, and we
could talk to the pilots as they were making the strikes going in. You
could hear when they got shot down, you’d know right away when
they got shot down. Someone would come on the air and say that “so-and-so”
got shot down, or you’d see it on a radarscope…they’d
disappear. And you’d know something’s probably wrong with
the pilot. Then you would go immediately to the SAR alert and try and
find them, as best you could. Now, they’d probably die. I imagine
that I rescued 10% of the pilots that got shot down. No more than that,
in other words. Most of them got captured. And it depends, if they got
shot down near a city, we weren’t about to send a helicopter out
to go rescue them, of course they’d get destroyed. But if they
were in the country somewhere you’d try and get them. If they
were really lucky, they’d be able to fly back over the ocean and
parachute out if they were shot down over the Tonkin Gulf.
Q: So that 10% sounds pretty good.
Mr. Haist: So yeah I think we got about 10% of the ones that got shot
down. For us that wasn’t very good, but for that 10% that got
shot down I’m sure it was pretty good.
Q: How long would it take for the helicopter to get to the land?
Mr. Haist: Well it depended, it would depend how far out they were shot
down. What would normally happen is when you went on a search and rescue
mission, you had to have anywhere from 4 to 15 planes involved in a
rescue. If you were off the coast, and a pilot was shot down over North
Vietnam, you had to be careful because there was a North Vietnamese
Airfield up there. Well first of all you’d have something called
Bar CAP, Barrier Compet Air Control, which was involved in high performance
jets. They’d fly four of them back and forth in a figure 8 type
thing. The [North Vietnamese] would obviously try and kill the pilots,
so you’d want to keep their jets away from where the pilot was
shot down. So these “barrier planes” would fly in between
which would discourage them from coming up and attacking. And then you’d
have what they called using carrier base from the Navy. You’d
just have Res-CAP, Rescue Cap, and they’d come in and provide
fire support. In other words there were 2 surrounding forces that would
keep [the North Vietnamese] away from the pilot. You’d have 4
of those planes coming in, trying to provide fire support, and you’d
have the helicopter coming in, and off the coast we’d have the
tanker. These rescues could take 6 to 8 hours depending on the situation.
Sometimes it’d be 10 minutes, and other time’s it’d
take a whole day to get them out, and sometimes you’d never get
them out. So we’d have another plane off the coast, a big tanker
in other words. Because those jets would sometimes fly for 20 minutes
and be out of fuel. So when you fly planes back and forth, you’d
bring them out over your ship, the tanker. You’d refuel them,
send them back in and just keep on constantly rotating them back and
forth. You could have a total of 15, 20 planes, you know, in a rescue
Q: Sounds pretty intense.
Mr. Haist: Well actually, it was, pretty boring most of the time.
Q: Well, what did you do in the meantime?
Mr. Haist: I mean you were out there for 8 months, 9 months, for your
tour. You were on what they called “port and starboard,”
so you’d be 6 hours on, 6 hours off, 6 hours on, 6 hours off.
So, you’d sleep when you could. You’d never sleep more than
4 hours during a period, and you were working everyday. You wouldn’t
have Saturday’s off or Sunday’s off. But, until there was
a rescue operation there wasn’t a lot to do. You’d check
your equipment, do some training, you’d go drill. You’d
eat, you’d sleep, and you’d watch until a plane got shot
down. Then it’d get crazy for a while, and when it was over and
it all calm down, you were basically done. So, that was it.
Q: How many people were on your ship?
Mr. Haist: Hmm. Couple hundred. The ship was about two football fields
long, a little less than two football fields long, it was 533 feet.
So it was a pretty good-sized ship. There were probably about 400 people
on the ship. So we were the antithesis. It was nice to be that, we were
not there to kill somebody. Our job was to go rescue people and try
to save lives. We saved one fellow three times. The same guy. He sorta
liked us. We were very popular with this guy, because he’d get
shot down and we’d pick him up and then he’d get shot down
about 2 months later and we’d pick him up, and so he got shot
down 3 times. So, he liked us. He thought we were his good luck charm.
He’d get on the radio and tell us, you know, he’s going
in, he’s there, watch him, and things like that. I mean, you’d
talk to the pilots, because they’re going in there, doing strikes
and things like that. And there’s constant communication, you
know, you’d have a little head set on and talk to the pilots.
Q: You would personally?
Mr. Haist: Oh yeah. I was an air controller. So I’d sit there
on a radarscope, it was one of my jobs, and I’d watch them when
they’d go in and monitor them and then I’d direct the helicopters
in and out when it was the helicopter’s job to rescue.
Q: So, bringing it back to the U.S.S. Maddox, what do you feel actually
Mr. Haist: Don’t have a clue. Were they attacked? I have absolutely
no idea. You know we were there one night, about 3 o’clock in
the morning, about the same place the Turner Joy was attacked. This
was about 3 months later, 4 months later, so people were still on edge.
And of course you know how it was used by Lyndon Johnson, having all
kinds of huge numbers of military go in, and that really escalated everything.
He used it as an excuse, right or wrong, he used that as the rationale
to go and to [increase] the involvement of the U.S. in Vietnam. When
you’re out steaming at night there would be Vietnamese fishing
boats, fishing junks, they were all over the place. And you gotta watch
your way, because you don’t wanna hit them. You wouldn’t
even feel it if you hit them. So you’d always watch on the radar
and try and stay away from them, obviously. Once there was a cluster
of these junks, about 10 miles away from us or 5 miles away, between
us and North Vietnam. So we were there, and this little fishing fleet,
or we thought it was, was over here, and a destroyer a little further
north from us. We picked up what we called ECM’s, which is a signal
from a radar, the type that’s used on a PT-boat. All you know
is that it’s coming from that direction. You don’t know
where it is but you know it’s coming, which happened to be right
smack in the middle of this fishing fleet. And at the same time, [the
northern] destroyer picked up the same thing and you could triangulate
pretty easily, it’s pure math, where it was coming from, and we
put it right in the middle of the fishing junks. Then our surface search
radar picked up a surface contact coming directly at us at about 50
miles an hour. That’s what a PT boat would do in other words,
that’s pretty fast. So they picked up the same thing, and we thought
we were being attacked. So, we turned around and ran as fast as we could,
to get away. We turned the ship around and went to general quarters,
and when we took off I saw that a jet was up flying above, I had him
vector out to those places. But it was about 4 in the morning or 3 in
the morning, and you couldn’t see much. So, he couldn’t
find anything, and eventually it faded, it went away. Now, were we attacked?
Don’t have a clue. Could I tell you today if we were attacked?
I don’t have any idea. So easily they could have done that to
the Maddox or the Turner Joy. Maybe they were just playing games with
electronics, you know, electronic games, which they can do, and make
you think that they had something going on when they really didn’t.
Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. Who knows? So I can’t
say if they were or not. I know he used that as an excuse, he wanted
that as an excuse to escalate the war.
Q: Could you distinguish what might have been a fishing boat and what
might have been a battleship about to attack?
Mr. Haist: Well if it’s a battleship you would know, battleships
are pretty big. I think I have a picture of one [in this book]. Fishing
junks are 200 feet long, so they’re the size of PT-boats so you
wouldn’t know. All you do is see it on the radar. You’d
see a little blip, and you’d know something is there. Or you’d
see 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 little blips and you’d know something was
out there, a ship or something.
Q: Just hope it’s not coming to you.
Mr. Haist: Yeah, and you could see if it was coming toward you or away
from you or if they’re moving, or sitting in the same place. That’s
really all you knew, and you watched them, constantly. It’s called
CBDR, Constant Bearing Decreasing Range. If something is on that bearing,
and the range is decreasing, they’re gonna hit you, you’re
gonna collide. So you had to be very careful to always watch for that.
I mean you monitor, and you plot out. People on a warship that’s
what they do, it’s called CIC, they’d plot the course and
speed of these other surface contacts.
Q: How was the general ambiance of the ship?
Mr. Haist: The morale of the ship? It was pretty positive. Yeah, you
know we were picking up and rescuing pilots, it wasn’t the dirty,
messy war that was going on. I mean we knew all about it, we were there.
You could see the bombs, and in the morning you could see North Vietnam
and where the bombs were going off. You could see the smoke and you
could see the flames and stuff like that, since we were right off the
coast, just 13 miles off the coast. So you could see the war that was
going on, but the morale, the morale was pretty good. We felt like we
were doing something that was hopefully, helping out the U.S. I mean
we didn’t know anywhere near what you guys know right now. We
weren’t anywhere near as educated, even in college. You know,
I had gone to college and then I had gone to graduate school, and I
had gone to the Navy school up in Newport [Rhode Island], and I also
got my commission. I was assigned to the ship and I got trained and
sent over there. I’m not saying I…I knew about the war of
course, you know I knew about Vietnam, I knew something about history,
I knew about the domino-theory, and you’ve probably got that in
[your questions] somewhere. And that’s what people believed in
back then. It was very different then, than it is right now. You’re
lucky, there is no “Cold War” right now. Although there’s
a war going on right now but it’s not the Cold War. People believed
back in the late 50’s and 60’s, that between Russia and
the United States the Cold War was going on, people knew there was a
war. There wasn’t anybody shooting each other, but there was clearly
a tremendous fear about the Soviet Union (at that time). There was anxiety
that Cruzchev, who was the Premier of the Soviet Union, had come to
the U.N., taken his shoe off, and banged it on the table and said, “We
will destroy you!” to the Americans, we’re going to destroy
you. They had missiles, they had very fancy weapons at that time, people
were nervous, and very worried about the Soviet Union. They felt that
this was the Soviet Union trying to use the North Vietnamese in order
to get them to fight the Americans, to defeat the Americans, and of
course for the Americans to lose Southeast Asia. That was the sense
of the time, the domino theory in other words, because if that went,
if South Vietnam went then Laos would go and then, which was Burma then
and is Myannamar now, and all these different countries in southeast
Asia would completely fall to the communists. That was the feeling at
the time, so I think it was right at the time to believe it. And that’s
what we heard.
Q: Was there any time when people started doubting the point of the
Mr. Haist: Well they were sure doubting it back in the United States.
We were over there and they were back here with Jane Fonda and the rest
of them making an awful lot of opposition, mostly in the colleges, that
was very common. People in the states were absolutely opposed to the
war, when we were over there and they were over here. They didn’t
like us and we didn’t like them. I’m not saying it was right,
but that’s the way it was. I got spat on. When I was…when
you flew back then to the United States, if you were in uniform, you
would fly half-fare, you know half-price, a military standby. But you’d
wait until you got a seat, and you’d be in your uniform and pay
half-fare. And so I was in the airport, in San Francisco, and some young
college student she spat on me and called me a murdering bastard or
something like that. But that’s what happened. There was such
a huge thing like this going on at that time between the students and
the military. They didn’t like each other very much at all.
Q: When you left in ’64 and when you came back in ’67 had
everything completely changed around you back home?
Mr. Haist: Oh absolutely. There was much more opposition to the war
in ’67, ’68 than there was in’64. People still supported
the war in ’64, but pretty much by ’67, ’68 there
was a consensus that the United States politically, couldn’t sustain
the war. Not that we questioned it, being in the service at the time,
but the population in the United States absolutely questioned the war.
There were huge riots going on. They had a democratic convention in
I think it was ’68, and there was also Chicago, and there were
huge riots going on in the streets. Police had to come in with tear
gas and it was a pretty wild time. There were black people going to
Canada, you know, students who didn’t want to fight in the war
or were opposed to the war. It was very different then. There’s
no draft now, it’s all volunteer army. Back then it was drafts,
so that’s why you went. If you were single and you were in your
early 20’s or whatever, you were going, there was no question
Q: You were drafted?
Mr. Haist: No I volunteered. I knew I would be drafted if I didn’t.
You just did that, it’s different now. My sense is that for people
your age, the concept of a military career or military is just non-existent.
People just simply don’t get involved in the military right now.
I read a couple of years ago that Princeton was all men back in ’64,
I’m not saying it was right but it was. There were 1,000 seniors
at Princeton, and I think 700 or so ended up in the military. And 650
of those 1,000 at some point served after they graduated from college.
Last year, there were 2,000 or so Princeton students, half of them men
and half of them women, I think 1 served in the military. The volunteer
military is completely different now than it was back then. It’s
not part of the people’s life today. I had 2 sons that both went
to Wayland High School. They weren’t considering going into the
military. It’s just not something that you’d think about
today. I don’t think.
Q: Would they pay for your schooling back then?
Mr. Haist: You could go through ROTC and yes they could pay for you.
I didn’t, my roommate in college did. He went into the Navy directly
out of college. They’d help pay for your college courses, and
then as soon as you graduated you took military courses in college.
They still have that today in colleges. It’s been banned on some
campuses, but they needed it then. Most of them had gone through high
school, had graduated from high school, and then went to college and
decided to go into the service instead of going to college. A lot of
them back then, if they didn’t go into the navy or air force,
went into the army or marines. And then they got you – that meant
you were probably going to Vietnam. Most people, myself included, didn’t
want to do that, so you’d volunteer and go into something else.
Q: Where is your hometown?
Mr. Haist: Wayland right now.
Q: What about as a teenager?
Mr. Haist: Connecticut. I was born and raised in Connecticut. I went
to high school in Connecticut, college at Dartmouth in New Hampshire.
Then I went to business school up there, then CS, and then over there.
Q: So did you go into business after?
Mr. Haist: I moved here in ‘76 to Wayland, and then to Arizona.
I had two boys at the time and they were very young. I moved to Arizona
in ‘86 and then to Scotland for 4 years until ‘92 and then
back to Wayland. We moved back here for 10 years, so off and on we’ve
been here since the 70’s and my 2 sons both graduated from Wayland
High. They’re long gone now.
Q: Earlier you just mentioned about basic training. What was that like?
Or before you even went over there.
Mr. Haist: They flew me out to San Diego to learn to be an air controller.
Just like when you fly commercial, some one is tracking your flight
obviously to know where you are going, hoping you get where you want
to go. Same thing. You are trained in a Navy facility in San Diego.
I went to CIC School, which is a COM information school, also in San
Diego. You see it on TV, where it’s dark and they have these little
boards, which they mark things down on, ink things on lights and stuff.
That’s CIC, in other words that’s COM information center.
We were assigned to that position on the ship, so we trained for that.
I forgot, they lost my ship! I got flown down, and the ship had already
left to go to the Far East, so they flew me over to Japan. Then they
flew me to the Philippines. Have you learned about the Philippines at
all? (Yes.) Well the huts were still there in the 1950s and 1960s. They
were remnants from the people who fought the Americans after the Spanish
American War back in 1898,1900. We landed in a Travis Air Force Base
and then took a bus to the Subic Bay, the naval base, which is now back
with the Philippine government. We gave it back to them. We had to get
detoured because they bombed the bridge. So I got to the Subic Bay in
the Philippines and the ship was supposed to be there. But it wasn’t
and no one knew where it was. So they flew me to an aircraft carrier
and they asked about the ship. They said no, they hadn’t seen
it and did not know where it was. So they flew me up to another aircraft
carrier further north in the Tonkin Gulf, and they didn’t know
where it was. So they flew me to a third aircraft carrier further up
in the gulf and they knew. They said, oh yeah, up on station about 30
miles north of us. So they took me to another helicopter and flew me
up, and lowered me down with a wire onto the ship, and that’s
how I got to my ship. They lost their communication gear, it had broken
down and they couldn’t communicate, they were confused about where
they were supposed to be. And they carried nuclear weapons! You’d
think the US Navy would know where the ships carrying nuclear weapons
were, but in this case they lost it. They weren’t sure where it
was, but they got there eventually.
Q: How is it like being away from your family for so long?
Mr. Haist: I had gone away to private high school; I’d been away
to college and been to grad school. I’d been gone since I was
12 or 13 years old so quite frankly -- same old, same old stuff. In
other words it wasn’t a big deal. A lot of kids we had were very
young. When I say kids, I hate to say kids now, but I mean they were
of high school age and sometimes they were right out of the farmland
in Kansas. they had always been close to home and for them it was a
big deal to be away from their family for the first time. They were
great kids. They were wonderful kids. They were wonderful. That was
a nice experience. When you go away to a private school and you go to
a private college and you go to a grad school and you go onto the military,
you don’t get to see the rest of the world. And then you get a
division of 30 people and they are not from the same background and
perhaps you’re a little biased about what to expect. They worked
their butts off. They were intelligent, they were bright, and they were
motivated. They were just a great group of guys! It was an honor being
the officer in charge of them. We gambled. I forgot about that -- totally
illegal. We did gamble to break up the monotony. You were required to
give money to the United Fund every year. Everyone in the military had
to give to the United Fund one way or another and we were all competitive
and every ship and every division had to give money, everyone had to
give money. We didn’t get paid a lot anyway. I got paid about
$3,000 a year. That was my total pay, but that was way back then. So
we would every time we went to a port, you’ve heard anchors away
probably. That’s when they would drop the anchor, and literally
that’s when it goes in and your moor your ship. So you’d
have an “anchor pool.” You’d bet to the nearest minute
when the anchor would go down. So I’d collect the money from the
men. And I take half the earnings and whoever won I’d pay them
half the earnings and I’d keep the other half. Then every time
we had a fund drive (this would all be illegal) but every time we’d
have this annual drive, I’d take the rest of the money and make
up all the names of the people in my division and I’d put $10
for this person, $10 for this person, $20 for this and I got 100% to
give and contribute, or so the commanding officer thought. They thought
we were wonderful. We did it by gambling, so it worked. But people do
that everywhere, that’s a fun thing to do. The guys, they loved
it aboard the ship and they pushed to do it that way instead of pay.
So that’s what we did.
Q: That’s interesting. When did you come home?
Mr. Haist: Late ‘67 or ‘68
Q: And when you heard of Nixon’s plan of Vietnamization did you
feel that all you had worked for was gone?
Mr. Haist: Yeah, pretty much so. You knew that wasn’t going to
work. It’s just a way to get out of the war. I think I’ve
got the same questions that you have. I think the lesson I’ve
taken away from all that was that it’s absolutely the same thing
and I question what’s going on in Iraq today. If we are going
to wage a war, politicians should determine whether or not we should
have a war, and tell the military what to execute. You don’t want
the military deciding whether there should be a war. If they did, in
other words, they’d just test their weapons, so you don’t
want them to have the authority. You want the civilians to have it.
What’s tremendous about this country is that civilians do. The
politicians do determine whether or not we go to war, but you darn well
better have the public’s support behind it. In other words, if
you don’t have the public’s support behind it, don’t
criticize the war. If you are going to decide to go to war, go to war
and then let the military do it, don’t try to meddle. You don’t
want the politicians meddling in with the military. That’s just
my personal opinion. You decide if you want them to go fight the war,
but once you decide, let them fight it. Vietnam was a case in which
you couldn’t fight the war in Vietnam because the politicians
were constantly involved, and more and more United States people became
opposed to it [the war], The more they got opposed to it, the more the
politicians reacted to the opposition. I’m not justifying the
war, I’m just saying once you do make that decision, the military
should be allowed to do their thing. There’s a city in North Vietnam
called Vinh, it’s on the map there somewhere. I find this interesting
but sort of sad, but it was like this, (pointing to map) here’s
the water on the coast and the city was here, the mountains were here
and here, and POL (petroleum oil and lubricants) back here, which you
would try to destroy obviously. We would send the Navy in to go and
destroy these installations. You could only go in this way because they’d
kill us if we did it this way (pointing to map). So we had to go this
way. The North Vietnamese had guns right in the city -- right by schools,
hospitals, you name it. And we couldn’t touch them, you’re
not allowed, the navy was not allowed to bomb those antiaircraft guns
and missile sites because civilians would be killed and you couldn’t
do that. So they’d go in every day and strike and every day they’d
get shot down and killed and you couldn’t rescue them. I think
we lost 7 pilots there in one week. Going in trying to bomb, they knew
exactly where the guns were, and where those missile sites were. The
politicians said you can’t bomb that site because God forbid you
bomb two feet away and you kill a civilian and the press will be there
right away and they were biased. The press would be taking pictures
and Jane Fonda would be taking pictures. She was by the way, sitting
on the anti-aircraft guns. That’s where she was on some of the
guns that were killing some of our guys. And we’re sitting off
the coast and we couldn’t do a thing about it. That was frustrating.
Once the civilians decide to do it, then that was very frustrating and
very upsetting. When we got there, you couldn’t do a darn thing
about it. So anyway that’s my bias.
Q: So were you pretty upset about the Kent State riots?
Mr. Haist: I didn’t understand them. I thought people didn’t
understand. I think probably I didn’t give them enough credit.
A lot of it, I think, quite frankly was the “in” thing to
do. It was popular to protest. You could be cool if you protest. In
other words, the peer pressure of the college age students to a certain
extent was to protest – because that got you dates and that made
you popular and you could be a big man on campus if you protested. To
a certain extent that was my attitude toward people. They really didn’t
understand what was going on. Some clearly did. Some were very sincere
in their opposition. Frankly, the majority thought they were just going
along with the crowd, as it was the thing to do at the time. It made
you popular. That was the “in” thing. Again, probably I’m
too critical of them but I think some were very sincere and had a very
good reason to be opposed. And should be. And there should be an opposition
and if you are opposed to it, by all means speak up.
Q: Looking back today, do you still feel the same way today about the
war, about its values, about what it meant to America?
Mr. Haist: I don’t think we knew enough. We knew some history,
again we said the domino theory, and I accepted that when I was younger.
I remember arguing about that when I was 22 years old and supporting
the war effort at that time. Should we have been there in the first
place? Probably not. Although unfortunately it’s not black and
white like most things. We had a series of treaties with countries including
the South Vietnamese. Now it turns out we got there because the CIA
overthrew the government. We should have never done it in the first
place. I didn’t know it at the time. All I did know is that we
had a treaty with the government of South Vietnam to defend South Vietnam
and we had treaties with NATO. All of us in the world, we had treaties
against the communist threat. If we didn’t stand up to our treaty
obligations, why would any other country in the world want to have a
treaty with the United States? The first time trouble comes in South
Vietnam the U.S. can’t pack up and ran and not support the government
of South Vietnam. I’m not saying they should have had a treaty
in the first place, but they did. There is the political aspect of it,
which is if you have treaties you have to be able to back up the treaties.
They weren’t just words. Unfortunately that’s just the way
life is on occasions. I could support it in terms of the need to live
up to our treaty back then. We’d totally lose credibility in the
rest of the world, and no other country in the world would ever come
to the United States and form a treaty if they think we’re not
going to stand up and support that treaty the first time it gets tough.
We can’t just pack up and run. I think the history behind how
we got to the point where we had a treaty is what I’d probably
question right now. We should never have had it in the first place.
And I’m sure to a certain extent it was macho. The French had
been there before. South Vietnam had been a French territory. They owned
it in WWII. The Japanese took Vietnam in WWII and after WWII there was
a movement amongst the Viet or Vietcong who came to the United States
asking for our support to help get the French out of there. In other
words, to make it an independent country, and we did not do that. I
didn’t know it at the time. We supported the French government
and the French got their rear-ends reamed and humiliated in Vietnam,
at Dienbienphu. That’s where they were circled and basically forced
out by General Geow who was the general of the North Vietnamese army.
And Ho Chi Min was the president. I think the military said “those
stupid French who can’t do anything.” I think it was some
macho thing going on at the same time, unfortunately. I think what’s
going on today, quite frankly, the same thing is happening perhaps in
Iraq today that happened back then. I’m not saying we should get
out, but I don’t think we should have ever gotten in. That’s
just my personal opinion. I think we should have gone into Afghanistan,
and I’m preaching, I apologize. We should have stayed in Afghanistan
and never gone into Iraq, and finished the job in Afghanistan that we
still haven’t finished today and never will. I think Bush has
made the same mistakes as Johnson made. Credibility is an issue now.
He’s lost the support of the population. He did a lousy job of
convincing the American people why we are there in the first place.
So it seems, it’s just my personal opinion and I’m preaching
and I apologize – I didn’t mean to be.
Q: Speaking of Lyndon Johnson, do you remember what your opinions were
of him before, during and after you served?
Mr. Haist: I thought he was a buffoon back then. And now he’s
a much sadder and a much better person. He was only there because Kennedy
was killed, basically. They called him Landside Lyndon because the first
time he lost the election in Texas, but then he apparently used his
money well in the election. He won by something like 6 votes. So they
called him Landside Lyndon and he got into Washington. Kennedy hated
him apparently. But he needed him because he wanted a vice president
from Texas because in the election its smart for somebody from the Northeast
to get the southern vote in other words. And then Kennedy was killed
of course. Barry Goldwater was the republican candidate and as far right
as you could possible be and he said we’d bomb North Vietnam and
do all these things if I’m president and Johnson said he couldn’t
possibly consider doing that and blah, blah, blah but he was already
planning on doing it. Using the Turner Joy and the Maddox as the excuse
to go and escalate and bomb and in doing that one could use certain
analogies perhaps in Iraq. Bush planned to go into Iraq.
Q: Kind of like the Spanish American War and the U.S.S. Maine.
Mr. Haist: Yes, same thing. I like History by the way. When we took
the Panama Canal during the Spanish American War. Did you study this?
It was owned by Columbia. There was no country called Panama it was
all part of Columbia. This is before the drug lords took over the country.
We had a treaty with Columbia protecting the passage, and the free right
to the isthmus. Then Teddy Roosevelt decided he wanted to build the
Panama Canal, and the Columbians said no you can’t. So they created
a revolution. He got some guy to come down and lead the revolution to
make it an independent country so we could get rights to build a canal.
Which we then did. The revolution was supposed to start at like noon
one day. Roosevelt, this is what I heard anyway, Roosevelt was in a
hotel in New York City and he wired a call and said how is the revolution
going. He answered, it hadn’t started yet, it was going to start
in 4 hours. Which it did. Then the Columbians wanted a ship so they
could send their troops into Panama, but since we had a treaty with
Columbia saying we had to protect the rights of the isthmus, our navy
went down to prevent the Columbians from invading their own territory.
It was a big game in other words that the politicians played. Sorry
for going on about that. I find it interesting how politically its being
used and Johnson did that. Nixon did that certainly. I think Bush has
done that and Teddy Roosevelt did the same thing. It’s what happens
in the world of politics.
I just think it’s so different now that we have a volunteer army.
I think it’s very easy to make decisions for the volunteer army.
You can make decisions with volunteer armies that you could not make
with a draft army. No senator in Washington D.C. or congressman has
a son or daughter in the military today. If you go back to WWII, they
all did, everyone was involved in WWII. People were involved in the
Korean War and the Vietnam War also because like McCain he was in Vietnam
and he was shot down. He was a pilot and his father was an Admiral in
Navy and talk about a very important person. There’s a whole fleet
of ships called the McCain’s and the ship was named after his
father, the Admiral. He could have gotten out of the war, but he went
because that’s what you did back then. Everyone got involved.
I’m not saying go back to a draft. One of the negatives of having
a volunteer army is people in the army are not generally the ones who
go to Harvard or Princeton and therefore their parents are not the ones
who are going to scream bloody murder. If you live don’t live
in a town like Wayland, or in other words a very poor town like Roxbury
or some other very poor section, and you have no future -- you go into
the military. You can get citizenship now if your Mexican and you want
to serve for so many years, you can become a citizen of the United States
legally by serving in the U.S. army. So you get people like that and
their parents aren’t going to be screaming and yelling that anything
is wrong. So the politicians are much more apt to get involved today
than they would have been 20, 30, or 40 years ago when there wasn’t
a volunteer army. Anyway, I hoped that helped.
Q: It did. Did you keep in touch with some of your old shipmates?
Mr. Haist: Oh sure, of course, absolutely. I had two roommates, one
is now dead and the other is still alive. He was best man at my wedding
and I was best man at his wedding. That was a long time ago, but he
lives in Wisconsin now and we email him and we talk back and forth.
He keeps track of other people so there’s a good network that
Q: So would you do it again if you had to go back in time?
Mr. Haist: I’m really going to preach now. I think that after
your senior year you should be required to do national service. I think
you should spend 2 years doing something, and as tax payers we should
pay for it. I don’t care if its military or Americorps or Peace
Corps. I really think that everybody should have to serve their country
or serve something larger than themselves. I really do think that everybody
should go in and have the benefit of serving and learning about how
the rest of the world lives. If you’re born and raised in Wayland
you haven’t seen an awful lot, quite frankly, and this is not
the way life is. In my experience going to the Philippines, I saw absolute
poverty -- unbelievable how horrible it is. You can see that by going
into Boston, or you can do that in Americorp or the Peace Corps. I really
think everyone should do this before going into college. Your friends
are going to College and it is just the thing to do. In Wayland it’s
the thing to do. You graduate from High School and then you go to college.
98% of your classmates do go to college. I would say yeah that’s
terrific. But spend 2 years doing something else first, you’ll
be more mature and you’ll have a much better idea about what’s
going on in the rest of the world. You’ll get a lot more out of
college at age 20 instead of 18 years old. You have to pay taxes to
support something like that. I would love the opportunity to go back
and serve in the Peace Corps instead of the Military. But I was going
to be drafted, and I was single, and I was the age that they are going
to get you. But I didn’t want to get shot at. I was chicken. I
wanted to be on the ocean where it was safer.
Q: All the other people on your ship were volunteers?
Mr. Haist: Everybody in the Navy back then was a volunteer. They volunteered
to keep out of the army and the marines, basically. The army and marines
was where you got drafted. But everybody that was on our ship had enlisted
themselves. If you live in Indiana on a farm, I’m not saying it’s
wrong – but you could see the world. We went to Hong Kong, we
went to South Vietnam, we went to the Philippines, we went to Japan,
we went to Hawaii, and we went down to Mexico. We saw a lot. We went
to Guam, we went to Midway. We went to all different places in the world.
If you’re 20 years old, how many people get to do that? Well,
today you can just get on a plane and go to Paris. Back then people
didn’t travel like they do today. It was an opportunity to go.
Back then it was “join the Navy and see the world.” I would
say 80% of the people that were on the ship had never flown on plane
in their life until the navy flew them over there or flew them someplace.
It was just the environment of the times, which is very different from
Q: Thank you very much, Mr. Haist.