Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 2, 1974 · Page 160
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 160

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 2, 1974
Page 160
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Page 160 article text (OCR)

Watergate is one issue on which officers of the three services split CONTINUED student assembly at an Eastern university during which bloody chicken entrails were poured on the caps of military men invited io speak. Fortunately, the officers said, civilian attitudes have undergone a change, and so have theirs. Col. Hervey S.Stockman, an Air War College student who a Vietnam ROW, reported receiving a friendly reception recently at an Ivy League school which had been repeatedly rocked by anti-war demonstrations. 'The country wasn't listening two years ago," commented Col. Gerald E. Galloway. "Now the mood is much quieter, and we've all gotten together again." Distrust press and TV Many officers retain a distrust of press and television news. To the question "Do you believe what you read in the papers or see on TV?" the answer invariably was "no." 'The press is essentially anti-military," commented a Navy officer. Another common belief is that television coverage of the Vietnam war broke the will of the American people to fight. "A terrible threat of futility went through the TV news of Vietnam," said an Army officer. "According to TV, nothing that happened in Vietnam could possibly work out. That isn't what I saw there." What about Watergate? This was one of the rare instances in which the services split. Most of the Army and Navy officers said they were horrified by President Nixon's role, and felt he should resign--but not so the Air Force officers. Strong feeling Naval officers seem especially strong in urging that the President leave his office. Said one Navy commander: "If my crew felt about me the way we feel about President Nixon, I would either be removed or. have to leave because I would have absolutely no organization left." An Army lieutenant colonel says: "As a citizen I'm disgusted by the goings-on in Washington." But the Air Force officers took a diametrically different position. "Watergate doesn't bother me one iota," said an Air Force lieutenant colonel."If you ask me, it was just dirty politics, friend, the way it's been played all along. I think the President should gut it out." Another Air Force officer put it this Vfce Admiral Stansfield Turner, head of the Naval War College, cites the "basic dedication of the officer corps to supporting the US. Constitution." Col. Leonard W. Johnson, Air Force flight surgeon: "We have too much appreciation forasystem under which we grew up to want to reverse it." Col. Gerald Galloway feels civilian and military attitudes have changed: "Now the mood is much quieter and we've all gotten together again." way: "It was a case of staff members getting involved without the President's knowledge. I wish it had never happened, "but I really can't get excited about it" I polled the group and found that 100 percent of the Air Force officers wanted Nixon to complete his eight years in the White House. The most plausible explanation for the divergent view in the services is strong Air Force support for Nixon for securing the release of the POW's--most of whom were fliers--from North Vietnam. I stirred up a hornefs nest when I asked if the United States had lost the Vietnam war. "What do you mean by 'losing'?" an Army officer snapped at me, "South Vietnam is not under Communist or Northern domination today. Thafs about all we went in for." Added a Navy man bitterly: 'The military can't be blamed for not completely winning the war because they weren't allowed to pursue it in a really aggressive way. If Col. Hervey S. Stock man who was a Vietnam POW, tells of the friendly reception at Ivy League school once rocked by anti-war demonstrations. the civilian authorities had really wanted us to, we could easily have defeated North Vietnam. We could have simply wiped them out." Both Army and Navy officers expressed faith in the detente between the United States and the Soviet Union. But once again, the Air Force men tended to differ. 'There's evidence that the Russians haven't stopped building their military power/f said an Air Force officer. "We think the detente is" leading us down the primrose path to-a point where we may never recover militarily enough to defend the nation." Air Force officers don't have too much confidence in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, either. Of the NATO nations the U.S. can count only on.England, Germany and Belgium in case of a showdown with the U.S.S.R., they thought. Officers of all three services are concerned about the end of the draft and the establishment of an all-volunteer army. They contend that the enlistment 16 rate is dangerously below Pentagon requirements, that many recruits have low intelligence and educational status, and that there's a lack of enlistees with critically needed skills. Many also express concern about the high proportion, relative to the general population, of black recruits. They say that the enlisted ranks now number 19 percent black, and that the figure is headed to 26 or 27 percent. Fears alienation "When you have an Army that is largely black," cautions one officer, "it's going to be alienated from the population, and the population will be alienated from it." Some urged that the Army institute a quota system in its recruiting to achieve a more representative racial balance. Most seemed wholeheartedly committed to battling racial prejudice inside their services, and the Army men said it was important to overcome a shortage of black officers-now only 2 or 3 percent of the officer corps. They said industry was outbidding the military for/the services of leadership-qualified blacks. The majority of officers felt that a resumption of the draft or some form of universal military service is essential to bring the Army up to strength. To my surprise, every officer was willing to permit some type of alternative service so that a young man who didn't wish to go into the military could work in environmental activities, medical care for the poor, or similar undertakings. Navy men said their service is acting to end sex discrimination, pointing out that the first woman naval aviator has just won her wings. A big dispute now, they said, is whether Navy women should go into combat. "I can picture a woman on the bridge of my destroyer and I don't dread it," a Navy officer said. "What I dread is the social upheaval on my ship." The consensus is that they should be allowed to fly in combat, do destroyer duty, and serve in submarines. But the officers split 50-50 on the question of whether women should be admitted to Annapolis. Hopeful on defenses I asked each service group what state our defenses are in. Each branch was hopeful. The Air Force officers said they could handle any threat anywhere. The Navy officers said'that the Russian Navy has warships and equipment, but that man for man we excel. And the Army? After 10 years of Vietnam, the officers make no rash promises, but they're staunch. Lt. Col. Donald P. Shaw summed up: "If you mean can we singlehandedly defeat every Russian east and west of the Urals, I don't know. But if you mean are our soldiers capable of operating their weapons and will they fight, you're damned right they will. Is the Army ready, you ask. The real question is: Is the country ready?"

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