BRIAN LAMB, HOST: General Norman Schwarzkopf, author of "It Doesn't Take A Hero," buried in your book is the following sentence: "Almost every general in Desert Shield had fought in Vietnam, and we all remembered feeling abandoned by our countrymen." You had two tours in Vietnam. How much did that experience impact the rest of your career?
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, AUTHOR, "IT DOESN'T TAKE A HERO Oh, it had probably more impact than any other experience I had in my entire military career. Many of the decisions that I made in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, many of the decisions that were made by subordinates, were a direct result of things that we had learned from our Vietnam experience. Maybe not things that had gone well -- you know, you learn just as much by seeing things done wrong and sometimes more. You say, "I'll never do it that way," and then you do it differently. But it had an unbelievable impact. I came back from Vietnam the second time and agonized over whether to stay in the military or not, and the only way I came to an answer to myself was, yes, I will stay but only under these circumstances and doing it this way. All that was directly as a result of Vietnam, so it had a profound influence.
LAMB: You were there twice; once as an adviser to the South Vietnamese in 1965?
SCHWARZKOPF: Right, 1964-65.
LAMB: Back then again in . . .?
SCHWARZKOPF: In 1969 and '70.
LAMB: As a battalion commander.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. I spent five miserable months at the Long Binh headquarters and then from there seven months as a battalion commander.
LAMB: Go back to your first trip there, 1964-65. How did you get there?
SCHWARZKOPF: I was at West Point. I was an instructor. I had been at the University of Southern California for two years, gotten a masters degree and obliged to come back to West Point to teach for three years as payback for that master's degree. I'd been there one year, saw some friends die over there, knew the war was going on and the war was building up. It was an infantryman's war, and I was an infantryman. I had a very guilty conscience about having the soft life at West Point while other members of the military were going off to war, and so I volunteered to go. It just happened to be at a time when the department I was in was reorganizing and they could afford to let me go, so they said, "You can go for a year and come back and serve your two more years after that." That's how I got over there. I got there, went in as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Airborne, probably the finest military unit in the South Vietnamese military -- many, many of whom had been members of the first battalion of colonial "parachutistes" under the French back at Dien Bien Phu, so people had been fighting that war for 20 years. An incredible experience.
LAMB: What was your rank?
SCHWARZKOPF: I was a captain when I got there. I got promoted to major about a month and a half after I'd been there.
LAMB: The first time you got into battle?
SCHWARZKOPF: I didn't know what was going on. Nothing you've ever had before or had been taught before really totally prepares you for it, and yet you're very well prepared for it. What happens is, all of a sudden there's somebody shooting at you and rounds are going over your head and your training takes over and you just continue doing your job, but it is chaotic. It has been described as long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror, and that's sort of what it was like the first time. I wasn't quite sure of what really was happening, but I had a job to do and I just kept on doing the job.
LAMB: How many Americans were there when you first went in '65?
SCHWARZKOPF: I'm trying to remember. I want to say there was like 20-, 25-or 30,000 or something like that. It was a very, very small number that were there when I first got there, but in that year there was a dramatic build-up. When I got there the only American unit that was there was one bridage -- the 173rd Airborne Brgade was there. When I left there were four, five or six divisions that had come over -- the First Cav, the Big Red One, the 25th Infantry Division, the 101st Airborne was coming in -- so I was there during a year of tremendous buildup from '65 to '66, and by the time I left, there were hundreds of thousands of Americans. The whole complexion of Vietnam had changed; the whole complexion of Saigon had changed at the time. When I got there Saigon was still the pearl of the Orient -- you know, sidewalk cafes, sleepy verandas, very laid back, sort of colonial, sort of Humphrey Bogart-ish, if you know what I'm talking about. Gee, by the time I left a year later, there were American troops in their uniforms staggering around in the streets and that sort of thing. Ambassador [Henry Cabot] Lodge at the time even wrote a memorandum complaining about the "Dodge City atmosphere" that had taken over in Saigon, which I think pretty well summed it up.
LAMB: You write in your book about "the most heroic act I've ever seen," and you'll have to help me with the pronunciations. It was Lt. Earl S. Van Eiwegian. Why did he perform the most heroic act you've ever seen?
SCHWARZKOPF: I don't know, and I have never ever talked to Van Eiwegian about that after it happened.
LAMB: What did he do?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, we were surrounded at Du Cho. We had gone into Du Cho to supposedly relieve a special forces camp, right on the Cambodian border, from a couple of local VC battalions. It turns out there were two regiments of North Vietnamese regulars that were coming across the Cambodian border right at that point. We ran smack dab into them, and the next thing we knew we were surrounded. We spent many, many days surrounded there, but we had a whole bunch of men that had been wounded in, frankly, our retreat into the special forces camp, who were going to die if they didn't get out of there. Yet the environment was such that any helicopter or any airplane that flew out there got such heavy fire from the ground that they just refused to come out. I mean, they just wouldn't.
There was a high ridge between us and Pleiku. There was an air base there, and as the story was told to me, Van Eiwegian was sitting in a bar, and people were talking about how rough it was out there at Du Cho, and the pilots were saying, "Oh, I wouldn't fly out there," and everything else, and Van Eiwegian said, "I will. I didn't come out here to sit in this bar. I came out here to help." He went out there, got his aircraft -- a C-130 aircraft -- and came flying in. I can remember, we knew he was coming in, and so we had the wounded out there and we were ready to run them out onto the airstrip when the plane came in. He had to fly over a ridge out there in the distance, and as he flew over the ridge these green tracers just came up from the ground from every direction. Everything in the world was shooting at this guy. He just flew right through it, came in and landed on the runway. When he landed on the runway, they started mortaring the runway. Mortar shells were going off all around us. More people were getting wounded. He just sat there, cool as a cucumber, at the controls of the airplane. It was dripping hydraulic fluid. I can still see the red hydraulic fluid just running out of the airplane on all sides, and this fellow sat there, lowered the ramp on his aircraft C-130. We ran the wounded in, the other people were getting wounded at the time, and he just sat there at the controls waiting until we gave him the high sign.
Once we had all the people loaded, he lifted up the ramp and took off. He had to fly across the same ridge on the way out, and the same thing happened -- the sky filled with tracers, he flew right through it. Then he could have taken the shortest possible route and gone to Pleiku, but our base was in Saigon and there were much better hospitals in Saigon, so he takes this plane that's dripping hydraulic fluid and everything else, and turns around and flies south to Saigon and lands. I never met the man, but I've always admired him and this is my chance to hopefully immortalize him a little bit.
LAMB: Was he moving South Vietnamese out?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, these were South Vietnamese Airborne. There was not a single U.S. wounded on that airplane. This was South Vietnamese troops that were wounded that he came in there to save.
LAMB: I know you went there twice, and this may have been on your second visit, but you talk about how you heard people refer to the South Vietnamese as gooks and it irritated you.
SCHWARZKOPF: Sure it did.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, that's a pejorative term. It's a term of prejudice. It's a term that tends to paint everybody with the same negative brush. I've got to tell you that the South Vietnamese that I served with on that first tour were not corrupt; they were not cowards. They were very brave, very heroic patriots. Many of them were citizens of North Vietnam who had been run south because they were Catholic -- I mean, literally run out of their homes because they were Catholic -- and they were fighting for their country, they were fighting for their freedom, they were fighting for freedom of their homeland -- all those things that supposedly we Americans believe in.
That's what they were fighting for. It wasn't to support a "corrupt regime" in Saigon that they were fighting. That's not what these people were there for. They were genuine patriots and I had great respect and admiration for them, so I didn't like it when other Americans who didn't even know what they were talking about for the most part, who didn't know many South Vietnamese or knew one or two, all of a sudden talked in those terms about them because, frankly, I was one of them at the time. I was as much a part of the Vietnamese Airborne unit as any other South Vietnamese was in that organization.
LAMB: Col. Trung?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. Amazing man. Absolutely one of the best combat leaders I have ever seen anywhere and certainly the most intuitive I've ever seen. He was almost idolized by the people in the Vietnamese Airborne. He was the chief of staff, a colonel at that time, but he was a guy that every time there was a tough nut to crack they would pull him out of his staff job and send him off as a task force commander with a number of troops aggregated under him, and Trung always took me along as his task force adviser. I'll never know why he did that, but it was a relationship that worked, and I learned a great deal at Col. Trung's side.
LAMB: Have you ever seen him since then?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I have not. He went on to be a four-star general. As a matter of fact, he commanded the Fourth Corps, which was the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam, when Vietnam fell, and the American senior adviser who was there at that time brought Trung out with him and Trung is living in the United States someplace today.
LAMB: You were wounded that first trip?
SCHWARZKOPF: Wounded the first trip on Valentine's Day. We called it jokingly after the fact -- it's sort of a sick joke -- but we called it the St. Valentine's Day Massacre because Schwarzkopf got hit three different places. It was funny. The night before Trung had said, "Boy, you've got it easy tomorrow, Tieta," which is a term for major. "We've got it easy tomorrow. We're always used to walking, but tomorrow we're going to have these armored personnel carriers, and we're going to ride around in these armored personnel carriers and it's going to be a piece of cake," he said laughingly.
They drove up the armored personnel carriers, and they opened from the top. They're designed for American troops to stand in them with their heads sticking out about like this. Well, of course, you did that and all the South Vietnamese heads couldn't see anything. So they piled ammo boxes all over the floor so the South Vietnamese heads were all sticking out like this. That meant I was sticking out all the way up to here. I don't think I've ever felt more vulnerable in my entire life. There was a stronghold that had been identified. We went in and attacked it in force, and it was a stronghold and a tremendous fight broke out. I can remember there was a tree line. The stronghold village was up here, and then there was a long line of trees that came out this way. We were coming around through the rice paddies and turned and heading towards the village, and I looked at the time and I thought to myself, gee, I sure hope somebody's cleared that tree line.
I said, "Has someone cleared that tree line over there?" "Yes, somebody has cleared that tree line." Well, we got up here, looking at that village, and all of a sudden somebody opened up on me right out of the tree line with an automatic weapon. It climbed right up the side of the armored personnel carrier, and I got hit with all the splatter. I got a huge fragment that hit me in the arm, I got hit in the face, I got hit around the cheek and everything like that. After the fact, we looked at this thing, and if that fellow had had one more click of elevation on his sight, he would have cut me right in half. It's things like that that cause you to become so fatalistic when you're in combat -- the recognition that here I was literally one click on his elevating device away from being dead, and yet because he didn't have that on, all I got was a lot of painful fragments in me but no death-threatening wounds.
LAMB: Another Vietnam story I remember was the one when you had to throw yourself on top of a soldier. What was that?
SCHWARZKOPF: That was my second tour over there when I was a battalion commander. We were in a terrible area called the Batangan Peninsula, just north of Quang Ngai up in ICOR, the First Corps area. The Batangan was an area that had been fought over -- the Japanese had been in there, the French had been in there, the Koreans that were over there with us had been in the Batangan -- and it was just loaded with mines and booby traps from one end to the other; a very, very tough area. My Lai 4 was in the middle of the Batangan Peninsula. The battalion had gone in there. I had a command-and-control helicopter at my disposal at all times. We were a half-an-hour away from the hospitals in Chu Lai. Any time we would take a casualty, we'd call for MEDIVAC. It took a half an hour for the MEDIVAC to fly down, load the person in; another half an hour to get them back, which meant it was an hour before they got medically treated. If I could do it, any time we had a casualty I'd get my helicopter in there right away, and that saved you half an hour's flying time for him to get down there. On this one given day a company walked into a mine field. I had flown in with my helicopter to MEDIVAC the casualties out. My helicopter had flown off with the casualties, and then another kid stepped on a mine over to my right, right over there, and seriously broke his leg. He started flailing around and screaming, and I was worried about two things. Number one, he was going to panic the rest of the company and the rest of the company was going to run and, of course, that's the worst possible thing they could have done at that time because they would have been running on a mine field. Secondly, I was worried about the way he was flailing around.
It was obviously a compound fracture, and I was afraid that he was going to cut an artery and kill himself. I told someone this once, and it really is true. One of the things I thought about was the sign on Harry Truman's desk that said "The buck stops here." I really didn't have any choice in the matter. Somebody had to go over there and calm that kid down and I was the senior ranking man there and it was my responsiblity. Besides that I wanted the company commander, who was standing next to me, to make sure he got the company under control -- get his leadership working, talk to them and get the company calmed down. So I went over to help this kid. Was that a heroic act? Hell, no. I was scared to death.
I honestly remember walking. Each step I would take I'd be checking the ground first, and I'd put my foot down and my knees -- you know, you hear about your knees shaking when you're frightened. That's the only time in my life my knees have ever shaken, but man, they were shaking! I had to grab my knee with both hands, it would shake so badly. Then I'd put the other foot down and I would grab like this and I got over to the kid. I was a pretty big guy then, as I am now, and I laid down on top of him. I literally pinned him and was talking to him, saying, "Come on, you've got to calm down now. You're going to cut an artery. You're going to kill yourself. You're scaring the hell out of all the rest of the troops," and this sort of thing, and I got the kid calmed down. Then I saw I'd have to splint his leg, no matter what, some way, and I turned around and looked back and right back where we'd come from, where the landing zone was that the helicopter had come in, there was a bush right there.
I turned around to my artillery liaison officer who had come in with me, Tom Bratton, and I said, "Bratton, cut a limb. There's a limb on that bush. Cut that limb off and throw it over to me so I can splint this guy's leg." Bratton took one step and boom! A land mine went off right where we'd been and blew a leg off, an arm off, and a great big hole in Bratton's head. Again, it's this question of fractions. You see what I mean? I was standing as close to that point on the ground as Bratton had. As a matter of fact, if I hadn't gone over to help that kid, that thing probably would have detonated and gotten me, too. As it was, I got a bunch of stuff in the chest. That's the minefield story.
LAMB: When you read the book, though, in the next couple of lines you say that three guys said, "Major, we'll never forget what you did for the brother."
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, that was back at the hospital.
LAMB: You told that story and left it to the end on purpose because . . .?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, because the troop that I was over lying on was a black soldier. I'd gone back to the hospital because I was wounded. They'd finally taken me back to the hospital, and they'd gone in and cut a whole bunch of the stuff out of my chest and they had debrided it -- a term you only learn when you get wounded -- debridement They had gone in and cut this stuff out of my chest, and then they wanted to keep me there, and I said, "No, I'm not going to stay. I'm going to go home," and they bandaged me up. I walked out and I went to check on Bratton because he was there, and I also wanted to check on the other troops.
One of the troops I wanted to check on was this kid to see that he was doing all right. I walked out, and there were three black soldiers there who were from my battalion who had had minor injuries, and they came up and said, "Colonel, we just want you to know that we'll never forget what you did out there for the brother, and we're going to tell all the other brothers in the battalion what you did." It was only then that it even dawned on me that this was a black soldier. As far as I'm concerned, I never judged anybody in the military on the color of his skin or his creed or anything like that. They're all soldiers to me, and when you're a commander they're all your responsiblity to take care of. So it didn't make any different whether they were black, white, red, green or yellow. I would have gone over and done exactly the same thing no matter who it was.
LAMB: Didn't you run into Bratton later on in the hospital?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes, I did. Bratton lives in the local area here, out in Maryland. But when I went into the hospital to have spinal surgery . . .
LAMB: What year was that?
SCHWARZKOPF: This was 1971. 1969 and '70 was when I was over there. In 1971, a year later, I went into Walter Reed to have spinal surgery. I went into Ward No. 1 which was the "officers' orthopedic ward." I walked in the door, and as I was walking down the hall this voice said, "Well, goddamn it, Colonel, it's about time you got here! We've all been waiting," and there was Bratton. It was a wonderful moment, because the last time I'd seen him before then was when he was [wounded]. He was alive, and he was speaking very coherently. What we did in serious cases like that was, they took them back to the hospital, they would stabilize them as best they could, and then they'd put them on aircraft and fly them to Japan where they had first-class medical facilities. So the last time I had seen Bratton they were in the process of stabilizing him. He had these terrible wounds, and yet the guy was just as calm and as serene as he could be. That frightened me because I'd seen that same thing in people just before they were about to die. I said to him something like, "Goddamn it, Bratton, hang in there," and he said, "Don't worry, sir, I'm going to hang in there." Here it was a year later, and there he was big as life.
LAMB: Before we leave Vietnam -- we could talk about this, obviously, for a couple of hours but there are so many other things to talk about -- on page 118 it's the only place in the book you mention this gentleman's name, and I'll read the sentence, "Peter Arnett, at the time an AP reporter, was in Du Cho for the first three days of the siege." Later on you quote him as saying, "I don't know about you guys, but my flashlight's been shaking ever since we got out of here." Now, is that the first time you met this man?
SCHWARZKOPF: That's right, yes. The first time I met him he was just an unknown reporter at the time. He came in, he heard about this battle that was going on, he heard we were surrounded on one of the other MEDIVAC helicopters. He somehow came in and he ended up in the camp and then he got surrounded with the rest of us. So this night we had a Vietnamese battalion commander who was very, very badly wounded, and we had to get this guy out or he was going to die. We finally prevailed on them to bring one MEDIVAC ship in, late at night in the dark, and Peter wanted to get out. So we carried this fellow out. The helipad was outside the camp. I mean, it was outside the wire. You were out there all by yourself when you went out there along the airstrip.
We went out, and the helicopter pilot called and said, "I can't see you." Of course, he had his lights off and we had our lights off. The helicopter pilot said, "I can't see you. How about forming a 'T' with your flashlights?" So we formed a "T." I was standing in the middle of the helipad, and there was a fellow up in front of me and two behind me. One of them was Peter. I said to the pilot, "Okay, we're going to turn on our flashlights," and we turned on our flashlights. The pilot said, "I still can't see you. Shake your flashlights around a little bit so I can see you better." I said, "Okay, guys, shake your flashlights around," and this voice behind me said, "I don't know about the rest of you guys, but my flashlight's been shaking ever since I came out here," and it was Peter Arnett who was back there talking. He got on that helicopter, flew off, wrote a very, very good story about the siege of Du Cho, and that was really the last I saw him. I passed him in the streets a couple of times in Saigon, but he didn't recognize me and I didn't bother him. But that's the last time I saw him.
LAMB: I've heard you talk about the difference in the numbers of press people in Vietnam vs. in Desert Storm. What did you learn, and other colleagues of yours, from the Vietnam experience about the press that you applied either to Grenada, where you were, or to Desert Storm?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I dealt with the press on a different level in Vietnam than I did in Grenada and in the desert war. I will confess to you that I'm one of those people who came away very disappointed in the press coverage of Vietnam. I saw what I called cooked stories -- plain and simply, military operations that were well planned and well executed and were real success stories but made very dull reading, and so you throw in a few civilian atrocities, you throw in a few short rounds or something like that and all of a sudden it becomes a sexy story that sells. I saw that happen to operations that I participated in. There were bold-faced lies. So I came away disappointed and, I will confess, somewhat prejudiced. Having said that, by the time Grenada came around I had matured far beyond that. I had learned from my Vietnam experience, but I still believe very much in the American public's right to know. Believe it or not, in the Grenada thing, something that people find hard to believe, but on the Sunday preceding the Tuesday that we went into Grenada, I sat there in a meeting where the plan was to introduce the press onto the island at 5 o'clock Tuesday afternoon. It was planned.
LAMB: After the . . .
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. The military was going to go in, do its thing, not announce it to the press for obvious reasons because we wanted to protect the element of surprise. Then we were going to go in and, bingo, the press was going to be introduced at 5 o'clock that afternoon after the invasion force was in place. Well, of course, what happened is the whole thing went to hell in a handbag. The enemy was supposed to fold, and the enemy didn't fold, The Cubans weren't supposed to fight, and the Cubans did fight. By 5 o'clock the first afternoon, the fog of war was very thick. We didn't know what was going on.
There was no way to protect anybody if we'd introduced the press and that sort of thing, and so Adm. Metcalf, the task force commander, made a decision, saying, "Hey, we've got to defer that. It's not going to happen." Some members of the press did come in and got in the way, quite frankly, of a military operation and were very embittered. But the lesson we learned, I think, from Grenada is that we had to come up with a better way of dealing with the press than what happened over there. It was after Grenada that the panel met with prominent members of the media to devise the system that we in fact used in Desert Storm, the pool system. It was based upon what happened in Grenada that we came up with the system they used in the Gulf War, and that's why I had to chuckle that at the end of the Gulf War another commission met to decide how we're going to handle the next situation because nobody was happy with the way it was handled in the Gulf War.
LAMB: Let me go back to Vietnam, because, as you know, any press person could hitch a ride on any helicopter to go out to a battle. Did you ever sit around with your fellow Army colleagues and say things like, "If we ever fight another war, this should never happen again?"
SCHWARZKOPF: No, not quite that. I would tell you, frankly, because of some of the experiences I had, towards the end of the Vietnam War I wouldn't let the press climb on helicopters and fly out there. It's something a lot of people forget. I had somebody put it to me this way during the Grenada War: "Well, it's my life, and if I want to go out there and risk it, that's fine. What do you care?" That's not exactly correct, you know, because if a member of the press goes out there with you and is lying out there wounded, then it becomes your problem. You're not going to abandon them. You have to go out there, and you have to rescue that person.
You're going to rescue that person just like you are anybody else, so for them to say sort of facetiously, "Oh, I'm no problem to you. Don't worry about it. It's my life and I can risk it the way I want to," that's not true. It does disrupt a military operation. But the climbing on the helicopter -- remember, we only had 80 correspondents total in Vietnam at the height of the Tet offensive. You and I both know that all 80 of them weren't out there in the field. There were an awful lot of them in Da Nang and Na Trang and Saigon, so the numbers actually in the field were sparse. There were guys like Joe Galloway and Peter Arnett who did get out there, who were right out there with the front line troops, but there were an awful lot of others that weren't. In the Gulf we ended up with 2,060 -- I think that was the final count that the American Embassy came up -- 2,060 correspondents in-country at the end of the war, all of whom really wanted to have the same privilege of going out there and hopping on a helicopter and flying anywhere they wanted to and reporting anything they saw. It's a big management problem.
LAMB: Let me ask you about that story about ARAMCO and the dancing girls.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. It's a classic example. When I first got to Saudi Arabia it was obvious that King Fahd had made a very courageous decision because, number one, he was going to be criticized. He could have been criticized by the whole Arab world for introducing Americans and foreigners into that part of the world. He was criticized by the Iranians. But secondly, he really left himself wide open to criticism by this very, very important element of what supports the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, and that's not only the religious portion of it, but really the far right religious portion that were very worried about cultural corruption in the kingdom that is, in fact, the custodian of the two holy mosques.
So the Saudis were quite nervous about cultural problems that could occur. One of the first things I was hit with when I got over there is, "You're not going to bring the Dallas Cowgirls over here to entertain the troops, are you?" Really, those words. I said, "No, it won't happen. I assure you it won't happen." We had already issued orders against pornography coming into the country, against liquor coming into the country -- didn't allow anybody to drink over there because it's against the law in Saudi Arabia. That caused a lot of controversy at first until I got it settled down. Then one night I got called by my counterpart and said . . .
LAMB: The Saudi Arabian general.
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. He said, "I've got to talk to you right away. The king is furious! You brought dancing girls into the community." So I immediately called my staff, and I said, "Did we bring dancing girls into the country?" "No, of course not, sir. We didn't bring any dancing girls in here. We know what the rules are. What's this about dancing girls?" So we went running down, and Khalid said, "It's on CNN. You brought dancing girls into the country, and these girls are all dancing." I said, "Khalid, we didn't bring any dancing girls into the country." Khalid was trying to cooperate on this matter. He said, "I know what this must be. It's female soldiers. You've got female soldiers. The troops have put together this show to entertain themselves and there are female soldiers putting on this show and you've got to make them stop."
I said, "I don't even know what you're talking about. What are you talking about?" He said, "Well, every half hour it's playing on CNN, and the first thing you've got to do is make CNN take it off the air." I said, "Obviously you do not understand the way our television stations work and our First Amendment rights. No way we're going to get CNN." He said, "Well, every time it plays, the religious right calls the king," and every half hour they were calling the king, saying, "See, we told you so." Of course, the king was under terrible pressure. Well, first of all, I didn't have any television. Secondly, to be honest with you, CNN wasn't supposed to be being beamed into the kingdom. What it was, was some of these more wealthy Saudis had these satellite dishes, and they were picking it up and watching it, which was supposedly illegal. But I hadn't seen it.
LAMB: You didn't have CNN to see in Saudi?
SCHWARZKOPF: No. At that time we did not have a CNN hookup. We didn't have anything but local Saudi TV. That's all we had in-country. To make a long story short, when we finally got . . .
LAMB: This was in November or October?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, this was September. This was right when we got there. It may have even been August. It turned out that ARAMCO, Arabian-American Oil Company, had their own compound down there, and these were wives and secretaries in ARAMCO that had put together this little show for the entertainment of American ARAMCO employees, and when the troops came over, as a goodwill gesture to our troops they said, "Well, we'll just invite all the troops in for this show" -- something that in this country would have been perfectly acceptable, and even over there would have been perfectly acceptable except somebody in Dhahran got the brilliant idea, well, let's invite the press and the television cameras in to broadcast this wonderful gesture to our troops.
Of course, what they were showing is from the thighs down of these girls who were apparently doing the bumps and grinds or something like that, and, of course, American paratroopers are reacting exactly the way American paratroopers react, like "Hey!," and all this sort of thing. It was the worst possible thing you could have had on television at that time. But it did, quite frankly, give me -- let me see. How can I say this honestly, because I don't want to portray the Saudis in the wrong light. They were wonderful, and we didn't have any cultural problems. This was the only major instance we had, and that's a credit to our forces and the Saudis. But it did give me a little bit of pleasure to go down and say, "Khalid, I have found out what the problem is, and it's your outfit. It's not my outfit." ARAMCO, of course, was run and owned by the Saudis. I was able to say, "It's your outfit that did that, not my outfit." And it just went away. I never heard another word about it.
LAMB: This book has almost 600 pages in it. How did you write it? It says on the cover, "Written by Peter Petre." Who is he?
SCHWARZKOPF: Peter Petre is an editor with Fortune magazine who wrote "Father, Son and Company" with Tom Watson, the former CEO of IBM. Peter had been through the process of writing this kind of book again, number one; number two, had no military background at all so he wasn't going to bring any biases to this story that were his own. Peter and I worked for one solid year on that book. It started with us really sitting down together and coming up with an outline of what the book was going to be about -- how long is it going to be, how much of it's going to be devoted to the Gulf War, how much of it's going to be devoted to early life and that sort of thing. We put it together that way, and then literally hundreds of hours of my narrating onto tapes, being recorded.
Peter would then go back and review those tapes, come back the next morning, ask me a lot of questions to clarify my narration and also to translate it into English because when military people talk, we have our own acronyms and our own language, and so Peter was very good about saying, "Say that in a different way so that the readers will understand what you're talking about." Then it was all transcribed. Peter would then take the narration and write the first chapter. He would give it to me. I, of course, extensively rewrote it. I would give it back to him. He then, of course, would extensively rewrite what I rewrote, he would give it back to me, I would rewrite it again, I would give it back to him, he would rewrite it again, he'd give it back to me and I would rewrite it -- about six iterations of rewrite between the two of us went into certainly the first 10 or 12 chapters, and then one chapter would be complete and we would submit it to the publisher where it started all over again because then the editor would come back and say, "Can't you give us a little bit more here to clarify this," and then, of course, the fact checkers would come in and then, of course, the legal review would come in and then, of course, the copy editor would come in. So those first chapters had probably up to 10 to 11 rewrites before they finally became the chapter.
LAMB: Where did Peter hang out?
SCHWARZKOPF: Florida. Peter moved down to Florida, lived right in the same complex that I lived in, came into my house at 8:30 in the morning. We would work many days until 7 o'clock at night. We would work often three or three-and-a-half weeks straight -- no Saturdays, no Sundays, right through. That really is the way the first 10 or more chapters were written. See, he was in the process of writing and at the same time transcribing -- you know, writing the earlier chapters and transcribing for the later chapters. He really knocked himself out and did a tremendous job.
LAMB: Did the Pentagon have review?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, they didn't have to. The law says that once I'm retired from active duty I don't have to submit it to the Pentagon for review unless I use classified sources of information to write the book, so I very, very stridently avoided using any classified information. An awful lot of stuff was declassified. Right after the war an awful lot of stuff was a matter of public record in the newspapers and this sort of thing, so I had a great deal of material to draw on.
But the best thing I had, the most important thing I had was this: In any other war I've ever fought, most of the instructions are sent by message back and forth so you have a hardcopy record of every decision that was made. Because of where we are today, most of the orders and instructions were sent back and forth over secured telephone. I mean, it was all by word of mouth. It became apparent very quickly that we weren't going to have a record of an awful lot of the decisions that were made unless we kept the record ourself, so every conversation, as the conversation was going on, I would write down what I was saying and what was being said to me, and I had an executive officer that also sat in there and he wrote down every time I would make a decision. If I called a staff meeting and as a result of that staff meeting I'd make a decision, he would log it into a private journal that we kept of every decision that was happening during the war. I'll tell you what, if it hadn't been for that, the book wouldn't have been written.
LAMB: Where are those 3,000 pages?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, they're mine. They're my private property.
LAMB: What are you going to do with them?
SCHWARZKOPF: I'm probably going to donate them to the Library of Congress, donate them to the National War College archives, Army War College archives or something like that, ask that they be placed there and embargoed for 10 years or something like that, and at the end of 10 years somebody is going to have a ball -- go in there and get hold of them and write the next version of the book.
LAMB: What are you going to do with those hundreds of hours of tapes that you dictated?
SCHWARZKOPF: I've got them all sitting at home.
LAMB: Are you going to donate those, too?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. I'm going to put it all in one package. A lot of people have come to me for my papers. I'm going to tell you something -- five years ago I didn't have any papers. It's amazing. One of the collections I have at home is all the stuff I saved from Grenada -- you know, the map that I carried around with me in my pocket in Grenada which became the planning map, the enemy map that we captured that showed us where the enemy was that became sort of our prime piece of intelligence, a lot of the briefing slides that I used right after Grenada to give pit talks about what happened in Grenada. I have all that stuff at home, and I've kind of kept that together, which was, of course, the principal source material I used for the chapter on Grenada in here.
You find out you accumulate a whole bunch of stuff. You send messages to the general, back channels and that sort of thing, that when you finally leave you find some very efficient secretary has kept all of that and filed it, and she gives it to you. I had taken all that stuff and put it in boxes and put it out in the garage. One of these days I'm going to have to sort through this and throw it all away because when I'm paying for my own move it'll cost me a fortune to move this to my next house or something like that. Well, now people want it. Now people say, "Hey, we'd love to have all this stuff that you've accumulated over the years." I don't know how they're going to make any sense out of some of it. First of all, I'm left-handed and my handwriting is atrocious, and an awful lot of it is my own handwriting. But there are people out there that would be just delighted to have it, and they say they'd catalog it and arrange it and put it all together and make it into something.
LAMB: You start off your book by saying you wanted to copy the U. S. Grant memoirs, a two-volume set. Then you say that yours turned out to be a lot more emotional than his was. How come you did one volume, and how come more emotional?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I'll tell you why. First of all, Grant's an interesting character. Grant refused to write his memoirs for years and years and years. He was asked to write them, and he didn't write them. Finally Grant went bankrupt once again and also found out he was dying. It sort of happened simultaneously. He tells you right at the very front of his memoirs, "The only reason I'm writing these memoirs is because I've gone bankrupt again and I want to leave an estate behind for my family and they've offered me an awful lot of money for these, and so, therefore, I'm writing these memoirs now." He's right up-front about it.
LAMB: Why did you like him?
SCHWARZKOPF: Because he was a dirty-boot soldier.
LAMB: When was he a soldier?
SCHWARZKOPF: Oh, gracious, he was a soldier long before he was known to the American people as the leader of the Union Army. He was out doing great things. Grant was interesting. Grant was a success as a soldier and then he was a failure as a soldier and then he was a failure as a businessman and then he was a failure as a soldier again, but he hung in there. During the Civil War he probably was one of the most effective. Without a lot of flurry, without a lot of press coverage and that sort of thing, he was just out winning battles. That wonderful line that Lincoln once said when he was talking about Grant, this guy out West who was winning all these battles.
Somebody in the White House said to him, "Well, you know Grant's just nothing but a drunk," and Lincoln said, "Well, find out what brand of whiskey he drinks. I'd like to send it to all the rest of my commanders." That's a wonderful line. But Grant was a compassionate man, cried many times with the casualties that were suffered, and yet still prevailed. He understood the meaning of applying the maximum force to get it over as fast as you can, because that ultimately becomes the way you limit your casualties, and got the job done.
LAMB: You say that back in, I think it was, December when [Defense] Secretary Cheney came to visit you all before the battle started in February that he brought with him a copy of the 11-part series on the Civil War. You go into some mention that all you generals watched it over there. Why?
SCHWARZKOPF: I don't know whether all of them did.
LAMB: Maybe not every one of them, but around your own group. Why did you watch the PBS Civil War series, and what impact did it have on your thinking?
SCHWARZKOPF: To be honest with you, I'd heard about it back in the States. I'd heard about what a wonderful series it was, and the first time I started watching it was for entertainment. At that time we were working seven days a week, and we were working a 16-hour day. We worked the eight hours of Riyadh time, and then you'd have to work the eight hours of Washington time that came after that. People were really getting ground into the dirt. My chief of staff came to me and said, "Hey, we've got to give the troops a break, sir," so we devised a system. Since Friday was the holy day and a day of rest and the Saudis didn't do much on Friday, we decided that one day a week we would break as many people free as we could on Friday and work a half-day.
What that did was allow them to kick back on Thursday night, go out, have dinner, sleep in on Friday morning, and then we'd come to work at noon. That left me without anything to do on Thursday night, and so the first time I watched this program was on one of those Thursday nights. I took out the first one because I'd heard what a wonderful series it was. We were in the process of planning this campaign that was going to involve hundreds of thousands of lives, and what you were doing is viewing other campaigns that involved hundreds of thousands of lives.
To me it took on almost a real-life dimension. When they were reading the words of Sherman, when they were reading the words of Grant, when they were reading the words of Stonewall Jackson, when they were reading the words of Robert E. Lee, many of these things were the same emotions that I was feeling right at that time, many of these things were the same emotions my commanders were feeling at that time, so it almost became hypnotic. Of course, there were just so many hours that you could watch, so I didn't watch any more for another week. Then the next week, I think I watched at least two of those tapes or sometimes three, and I was mesmerized by the whole thing.
LAMB: Do you think it had any impact on any decision you might have made?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. Not directly, but it certainly attuned my brain to once again the horrors of war, once again the fact that this is a human life that you're dealing with. This is not moving military symbols around a map. It became very much an emotional experience as well as a business experience, if you want to call it that, in putting the whole thing together.
LAMB: Another thing that you say in the book had some impact on you was seeing the Broadway show "Ben Franklin in Paris." Why?
SCHWARZKOPF: That was before I went to my first tour of Vietnam. I had volunteered to go to Vietnam. It was an advisory effort. It wasn't leading U.S. combat troops. An awful lot of people up at West Point told me I was crazy. "What are you doing this for? There's no career enhancement in your going over there and messing around advising Vietnamese," and that sort of thing. I kept saying, "You don't understand. That's not what it's about. It's about this sense of duty. I'm an infantryman, and this is an infantryman's war." It went right over their heads. I wasn't articulating my position very well. Then I saw "Ben Franklin in Paris" and this wonderful concluding last scene where Benjamin Franklin stands up and says these words about, "How will I find them then, those Americans to whom the name American is not new? Will they love liberty, having been given it outright in their crib for nothing? Will they understand that if you are not free, sir, you are lost without hope?" He goes on, and then his final line is, "And would they be willing to die for it, because that's the question one must ultimately ask oneself. Would I be willing to die for it? And the answer must be, Yes, sir, I would." That's why I was going to Vietnam. I've never forgotten those words.
LAMB: There's another point where you talk about some of the civilians back here in Washington seeing too many Rambo movies. What was that reference?
SCHWARZKOPF: Obviously that was tongue-in-cheek, but there was an element that was, I felt, pressuring from the very first day for us to take precipitous action when we weren't militarily prepared to do that. At one point, as early as November, I was called McClellan.
LAMB: Gen. George McClellan from the Civil War?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. Because they had seen this Civil War series where McClellan sits outside the gates of Richmond with a vastly superior force and still won't attack Lee, so Schwarzkopf was referred to as McClellan because they had seen it on television.
LAMB: Who is "they?"
SCHWARZKOPF: I don't know, and honestly I mean it. Everybody comes after me and says, "Name names." Do you know why I don't know the names? Because Colin Powell had the very good sense not to give them to me.
LAMB: But they're the civilians around the president?
SCHWARZKOPF: Yes. Some civilians within the White House around the president, people in the National Security Council. I don't know if they're back-bench aides that he was referring to. Colin was relaying to me what was going on in Washington as well. We were trading information freely back and forth. But when this McClellan thing got up, I got particularly burned because, first of all, this guy that watches the PBS series and now all of a sudden he is schooled in the operational arts and is going to explain to Schwarzkopf how to run war. But more importantly, the guy was so stupid, whoever it was, he didn't understand that there was a big difference. McClellan outnumbered Lee by about 10 to1, and the Iraqis outnumbered us by about 3 to1 at the particular time that this happened, so it was an entirely different situation.
So I said to Colin, "Who is the S.O.B. that said that? I'd like to know. I'll call him up on the telephone and tell him exactly why," and Colin had the great wisdom to say, "No, just forget it. You don't need to know who it was. Let me worry about what's going on back here in Washington. You just worry about what's going on over there," so I never knew who it was. But if you think I can convince anybody of that, you're dead wrong. Everybody is convinced that I know exactly who it was, and they bring up names. You know, "Was it so-and-so or was it so-and-so." I don't know. I honestly don't know.
LAMB: I think it was your daughter that said to you on the phone in the middle of all this, "Norman Schwarzkopf, if you die I'll never speak to you again."
SCHWARZKOPF: That was my wife.
LAMB: What was that story? A lot of this book is behind the scenes, your personal relationship with your family while this thing is going on.
SCHWARZKOPF: The night the war was supposed to start -- we needed 48 hours, my commanders and I, to get everything rolling, to get the airplanes in the air, to get the bombers loaded up, to get the refueling set up, so we had to have 48 hours' notice. So after the 15th of January deadline came and went, we got the word, "Okay, it's a go." Then you put all that in being, in motion, and then there's nothing you do. You just sit there. So the night before the war was about to begin, at about 11 or 12 o'clock at night, I did what most people do -- I sat down and wrote a letter to my family.
See, by this time we'd heard all the stuff about chemical missiles, and we didn't know if they were going to fire chemical missiles on Riyadh and we were going to have mass casualties, whether I was going to be killed or not. We didn't know what was going to happen, but even though I talked to them on the telephone twice a week, it was very important for me to sit down and write a letter to my family to tell them how I felt about them. I wanted them to know at that last minute that they were important to me, that they were the last thing that was in my mind before this terrible war started. I don't know why, but it's amazing how many people I've talked to who did exactly the same thing. I wanted them to have this piece of paper so that when they were 25 or 30 or 40 or whatever, and if their father was killed, they could pull out this piece of paper and know that their father -- so I wrote a letter that was a very emotional letter. It's in the book. I only put it in the book after asking my wife's permission to do that. Peter actually asked her permission to do that. I wrote them this letter, and then the war started.
About three weeks later I called up one night on the phone, and Brenda was in tears. I said, "Oh, my God, Brenda, what's wrong?" I thought something had happened with one of the kids or something had happened to the dog or something had happened, and she had just gotten the letter. It had taken that long for her to get it. She said, "Well, I've got your letter here, and Norm Schwarzkopf, I want to tell you that if you get killed I'll never speak to you again."
LAMB: Is there anything that you regret putting in this book now that it's out, that you wish you'd pulled back.
SCHWARZKOPF: I don't think so. Unfortunately with a book like this, people are always going to go in and pull something out of context, and in this case they pulled out the one time I spoke about this very dramatic moment right before the ground war was about to begin, when Colin Powell was under tremendous pressure back there, I was under tremendous pressure by my commanders, the weather was turning lousy on us, and we were debating having to wait two days or not. That's the one thing everybody went glom! and they grabbed right out of context and, of course, it appears in the excerpts and everything else. But I did that because if this book is going to be of any value at all to future military people, to future students, it's got to be honest.
What it's got to show is that it is a tortuous process coming up with the decisions that involve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. It's not simple. All the war movies make things look so easy. I mean, a guy comes in and says, "Well, let's go to war," and we go to war. That's not the way it happens. You agonize over your decisions. You agonize over your plans. You get input from everywhere. People up and down the line have to make very, very tough calls, and that's why that excerpt is in there. If read within the context of everything that goes before and everything that comes after, it doesn't seem quite so dramatic. Read by itself, taken as a single isolated incident, it, of course, seems very dramatic.
LAMB: We've got just a short time left, and I don't mean to keep jumping back and forth, but I want to end it with what you found when you were in Vietnam in 1965. This was a document from Ho Chi Minh that you quote. This is a document, I assume, to the troops?
SCHWARZKOPF: The South Vietnamese captured this thing, showed it to one of my American advisers and said, "Let me tell you what this says," and my American adviser brought it to me and said, "Look at this thing. Look at what these people have in their hands here."
LAMB: This is from Ho Chi Minh, and it says, "I know you're facing more and more Americans right now, but don't worry. We're going to win the war against America the same way we won the war against the French -- not on the battlefield but in the enemy's homeland. All you have to do is hang on. The American people are not tough enough to see this war through, and we are. We have fought for 20 years. We can fight another 20 years. Before then they will give up and not support their troops anymore, and we will claim victory." Now, did you carry that thing around with you when you were in Desert Storm?
LAMB: Was it back in your head all the time?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, sure it was in the back of my head. It was in the back of my head in Grenada. The one thing I thought about the night before we went in is, my God, are we getting involved in someting else that the American public aren't going to support? When I first went over to Desert Storm it was a very great concern. American public opinion was sort of going like this, and there was a congressional debate and a whole bunch of the congressmen were coming out against what was going on and this sort of thing. I just thought the worst possible thing that could happen to us was to be over here, halfway around the world in the middle of nowhere, and not have the support of the American people. But the American people said, "Not this time." When we first got over there we were getting 100 tons of mail a day. By Christmas we were getting 400 tons of mail a day from people all over this country, and indeed all over the world, who were saying, "Hey, as long as you're there, we support you. We don't blame you for this war."
LAMB: Here's what the book looks like. "It Doesn't Take A Hero" is the title. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the author, thank you for joining us.
SCHWARZKOPF: Thank you very much. I enjoyed being here.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2004. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.