Citation
Interview with David A. Materna, 2002-03-20

Material Information

Title:
Interview with David A. Materna, 2002-03-20
Creator:
Materna, David A. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Vietnam War
Vietnamese Conflict -- 1961-1975
Veterans -- Florida
Vietnam War Veterans -- Florida
Vietnam War Veterans Oral History Collection ( local )
Florida Topical Oral History Collections ( local )
Temporal Coverage:
Vietnam War ( 1961 - 1975 )

Notes

Funding:
This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

Record Information

Source Institution:
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location:
This interview is part of the 'Vietnam War Veterans' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management:
Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Resource Identifier:
VWV 003 David A. Materna 3-20-2002 ( SPOHP IDENTIFIER )

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Ok today is March 20,2002 and I'm interviewing David Materna
Question one:

JTK: Please state for the record your name, date of birth, occupation, and last
military rank

DAM: David A Matema, Aug 19th 1945 currently president and CEO of The Paradigm
Group, apartment owners managers and developers here in Gainesville Fl and I resigned
my commission from the us navy in may of 1978.

JTK: In our preliminary interview we discussed briefly a chain of events in your life
beginning with your decision to apply to the us naval academy, please give a brief
synopsis of events leading to your decision to enter the academy as well as your
experience in Annapolis

DAM: By the way you asked for my last rank in the navy, I resigned in 1978 as a
Lieutenant Commander of the United States Navy. Many events led up to my applying
for, being accepted by and my attending the U.S. Naval academy in Annapolis. I was, it
goes all the way back, I was raised in a catholic family that were descendants of polish
immigrants so I always had a very patriotic type background. the polish immigrants were
always very happy and proud of being Americans, and so that type of discussion and
background influenced my life from the time I was a child. Also, I was raised in a catholic
family. attended 12 years of catholic education 8 years in grade school and 4 years in an
all boys catholic prep school in Bedford Ohio. Again the focus was always on patriotism
and family. My father was an enlisted marine in W.W.II and he was always proud to be a
marine. He always made a point of it. the fact that he was a marine even though it was
only four years during W.W.II, but he always considered himself a marine after he got out
of the marine corps and would discuss it appropriately as if it was something that he was
very proud of. So, in 1959 I graduated 8th grade from a catholic grade school, went to
Chanel High School in Bedford Ohio. it was a college prep school and at the beginning
of my junior year in high school we had our career counselor come in and talk to us about
various college scholarship opportunities. It was during one period just prior to lunch, I
recall, and the college counselor came in and talked about all the various different types
of college scholarships that would be available to us as we graduated from high school.
The high school I went to had a very good record of like 96% people going on to college
so they did a good job as far as exposing us to what opportunities were out there. So he
went through the various scholarships that were available and how you get into the
various colleges. On the upper level they talk about obviously the ivy league, they pushed
Notre Dame obviously, um, then the local schools, Ohio state university, and then frankly
for those that might have a tough time getting into some other university, they talk about
Kent State which was only about 18 miles from Bedford Ohio. And at the very end of the
session of going through the various schools, the requirements, the SAT requirements, the
grade point averages that you would need, he said "and then of course there's the military
academies, but that process is so difficult that I won't go into it now" and more or less
ended the class. Well, that, his comment of it being very difficult and almost impossible










to get into triggered a little competitive spirit in me and I followed him, because it was
lunch hour, and I followed him back to his office and I said "what do you mean you
weren't going to go into the appointment process or the application process for the
military academies?" and so he sat down and we talked for about a half an hour about
how the process worked, and again the competitive juices started flowing when I heard
about how you had to get an appointment by either a senator or a congressman to get into
the Naval Academy. So I started looking into it after that. I wrote to each of my state
senators from Ohio and my local congressman to what their procedures were for making
their appointments to the Naval Academy. Again this was at the beginning of my junior
year in high school. So I got the packages back and it was a very detailed procedures just
like all the rest of my college applications, I started working on them basically the second
half of my junior year in high school and going through the process of applying for the
Naval Academy. I had a very good academic record and to make a long story short, at the
beginning of my senior year in high school, I was already being accepted by Notre Dame,
Princeton, Johns Hopkins, and just waiting for the Naval Academy. Number one, I didn't
know that much about it to be honest, here I was the beginning of my senior year just
seventeen years old or actually in my junior year when I picked that I wanted to go to the
naval academy we had visited Washington DC, we'd seen Annapolis, I liked the idea of
the location, I wanted to become a pilot and it appeared to be the more civil way of going
into the military if I were to be accepted. So I chose that, the naval academy, as my target
school among the various military academies. Interesting, I had a best friend who was
going to trying to get into West Point at the same time. But anyway, so I went through the
process and actually the tougher the process the more you ended up wanting it. So about,
well I remember exactly, it was Feb of my senior year in high school, which was would
be Feb 1963. I got the word that, I got actually a telegram from Senator Frank Lausche of
Ohio that I was being designated as his primary candidate for an appointment to the naval
academy for the coming year. Also, I think the influencing this decision were family
pressure and family support. Our entire family became involved in the presidential
election of supporting Kennedy, and that was another big factor obviously we all know
that his famous quote of "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do
for your country" well that combined with again the sense of privilege, our family first
generation Americans had the pride of being American and then having the president do
that, there was a ground swelling of "What can we do?" So when I first became
interested in the naval academy and the word got out throughout the family, I mean it was
like the best thing I could ever do. It was either the naval academy or Notre Dame in my
families eyes. I had four first cousins attending at Notre Dame. But I was the
"blacksheep" in the family, and when it came down I was accepted at Notre Dame and
accepted at the Naval Academy, I picked the Naval Academy. Again, it was half
competition of "can I do it, can I get accepted" because it was so tough, and it was half
doing something that was patriotic and actually driven by the pride of your own family.
As a sixteen or seventeen year-old you haven't formulated a lot of your own ideas so
you're molded by, you know, your uncles and your aunts who you put on a pedestal.
Anyway, so that was a great influence on me going to the Naval Academy. Now, was
that as far as you went..










JTK: I just wanted a brief synopsis of your experience at the Naval Academy.

DAM: At the Naval Academy..O.K. Well, again, here I am seventeen years old
graduating from high school going into the Naval Academy, actually too young to have a
draft card. I didn't turn eighteen until August of my plebe year, that's what they call the
freshman year, and it was a very rude awakening of what was to be expected. I graduated
from high school on June the tenth and on June 28th I was being sworn into the Naval
Academy. From minute one of being sworn in, everything was discipline, discipline,
discipline. And looking back on it, reflecting over it the many years, they had a major
task on their hands. In my class, the class of 1967, there were 1,267 plebes that entered
the class in June of (19)63. And they were from all walks of life, I mean you had kids
from the streets of Brooklyn, you had farmers from Iowa, we actually even had an heir to
the Wrigley fortune from California, every state, every city, every type of socioeconomic
background, there were even foreign students there. And, the purpose of the Naval
Academy was, a very single purpose goal is to produce a competent Naval officer on the
back end of four years of a great education. So, from day one the purpose of the entire
plebe year, which is the first year at the academy, is to initially breakdown all of the
individualism that you developed in those seventeen or eighteen years. Some, there were
older, some of my classmates were older, some came in from being enlisted in the service
and they were 22 or 23 years old. But again, you have all this varied background behind
these 1200 people, guys, and the academy has one purpose....to produce a very competent
Naval officer on the back end, at graduation. So they begin trying to break down all the
individualism and instilling discipline in you, a way to understand how you will react in
pressure situations, the importance of responding to orders. One of the main principles of
that first year is the premise that you won't know how to give orders in the future if you
don't learn to take orders now. So, no matter how trivial, no matter how minute the
orders were that you were given, it was, again, a twelve month boot camp effectively.
You learned both the military aspects as well as the personal disciplines necessary that
they believed were necessary to become a competent military officer. It was a great
education, fantastic, I'd go back, I'd do it again because what I learned about myself
going from a seventeen year-old boy walking in to the gates of Annapolis to graduating
four years later was a great transition in my life. As I said, as a seventeen year-old you
really didn't have a lot of convictions and when you graduated you were expected to go
out, become a leader of men, go into the military, and contribute in a meaningful way. So
I learned a lot in those four years both about the military, the various aspects. At the
Naval Academy you could choose to become a submariner, ship board officer, a naval
aviator, or 65 students were allowed to go into the Marine Corp, 65 graduates. Some even
went into the Supply corps. Again, it was all ranked by academic performance, that you
got to choose. And during your time there you got to experience each of these types of
military during the summers. So I had a summer as a naval aviator, in aviation training in
Pensacola, a summer in Groton Connecticut aboard submarines, my plebe cruise I was on
the Little Rock CLOG-4 cruiser on a cruise to Europe. It sounds like a fantastic deal but
again you've got to remember that we're focused on learning disciplined training. We
were the lowliest of low people on board that ship. And we were reporting, even though
we would eventually graduate as an officer in the Navy, we were reporting to twenty










year-old seamen, third-class petty officers, very junior enlisted and they were in charge of
our duties and our lives while we were onboard ship. For example, one time we were
down in the bilges which is the lower most part of the ship and obviously all oils and
trash and everything usually ends up in that part of the ship. So we were down there
cleaning the bilges and we're literally down in knee-deep muck and we ask the third-class
petty officer, who was in charge of us, "by the way when the last time these bilges were
cleaned?" he said "last midshipmen cruise, you think we're going down there you're
crazy." But that was the idea of it, you had to experience every possible duty aboard ship
from KP, peeling potatoes, to....The cruiser at Little Rock had what they call a teek wood
deck and they took care of the deck the old-fashioned way with soapstone where you
literally had to scrub the deck with a combination of, I'm just recalling it now, cleansers
and chlorine. You use this soapstone which is called holystone on the deck and it took
forty rubs on each board before you could move on to the next one. Rubbing this material
into it to clean the salt out of it and make it clean. So, you were on your hands and knees
at 5:00 a.m. in the morning holystoning the deck prior to anybody being up on deck that
would get up there and walk through the mess you were making. Again, that's one of the
lowliest tasks ever. But that was only in the plebe year, summer, it was called the
youngster cruise, the summer following your plebe year. In the other summers, you were
treated progressively more towards becoming an officer. In your second class summer,
the summer after your sophomore year, you would actually be treated as a senior enlisted
person. And then the following year you'd actually be treated as a junior officer. So you
had the increased responsibilities of shipboard life or whatever assignment you had. And
again the purpose was to learn at every level so that when you were dealing with a person
at that level you knew exactly what they had to go through. You knew that if you were
sentencing them at a court marshall, or a Captain's mast to cleaning the bilges you've
been there, you know what their going to have to do. So it was just to experience it so
that you were aware of everything. And I think you asked me one other time the
difference between going to the Naval Academy and becoming an officer through some
other program, I think that's one of the major differences, that we actually did experience
at all levels what we would ultimately be responsible for after graduation. More toward
the topic of the night, also during your plebe year you were responsible for what they call
"professional questions". The upperclassmen at your table, while you were braced up and
eating, again a disciplined type position you've all seen it on television, they would ask
you to find out information about what's going on in the world, or what was in the
morning paper. You had to memorize the front page so that you would be able to repeat
any story that was on the front page any morning at breakfast. They would ask you
questions about, political questions, they'd ask military questions, they'd ask you to find
out all of the specifications of some military aircraft or a ship. You know all of that type
of information. And before the next meal you had to find out the answer even though you
were going to class at the same time and taking care of everything else. So you do a lot of
reading and, typical as you might expect, most of the upperclassmen would ask questions
in their own areas of interest or expertise so they didn't have to look up answers. They
just wanted you to share the knowledge type thing. So we started learning, again I was
there in '63, we started getting questions about Vietnam: Where is it? What is it? What
do you know about it? What's going on there? Because this is a potential assignment after










graduation for them. They wanted you to start learning about that, and of course they
were upperclassmen so they were already within one, two maybe six months from
graduation they were looking for information also. So we'd have to learn all the details
of specific events and repeat it back at the next meal. That's the first time I ever heard
about Vietnam. Before that I never even knew it existed. The whole four years though
was just building a foundation, learning discipline, learning to give orders, learning to
lead, learning about leadership. The academic world was learning some of the necessary
naval science courses that we would need in the field, like what we called "steam" or
engineering, electrical engineering, all the things, actually nuclear power we had courses
in that. And on top of that you had all your normal academic courses. I was lucky enough
to be able to get a Bachelor of Science degree in both Naval Science and Aeronautical
Engineering. So that's a little bit about the Naval Academy.

JTK: In what years did you take part in the Vietnam Conflict and what were your
primary duties? I would also like to know how many tours of duty you served, I
guess that is how you would say it, and apparently they only assigned one year at a
time to soldiers, is that correct...Were any of them (tours of duty) volunteered? If so
why?

DAM: Well I graduated in June of '67 and, in my Senior year I chose to become a Naval
Aviator, so I went to flight training in Pensacola Florida. During flight training you had to
choose what type of aircraft you wanted to fly, whether you wanted to go what we call
props, jets or helicopters. While I was in flight training, you make these decisions at each
step along the way in flight training. I was becoming very serious with my girlfriend,
now my wife of 33 years, who I met in Pensacola while I was in flight training. I started
focusing on after I got my wings, what type of flying did I want to do. It's important not
only the excitement or the type of aircraft but it's the type of duty that you're picking.
For example, if you chose to be a jet pilot you were choosing to have Air Craft Carrier
duty immediately after you get your wings. Being gone, well initially most people felt
that carrier trips were about six months away from home, but then of course as we know,
during Vietnam those became nine months and twelve months and fourteen months of
being away from your home port. So, honestly I chose not to become a jet pilot because I
didn't want to have carrier duty. I was getting married to my wife in June of '69 and I
chose what we called "props" or the P-3 Orion which was a four-engined turbo prop
land-based aircraft. Then I knew wherever I was assigned, at least, I'd be living either on
a naval air station or in the economy surrounding a naval air station. So, again, I was
choosing to have a nice mixture of family life and flight time, a very productive flight
occupation. So I picked props. I got my wings in 1969 and immediately was assigned to a
VP patrol squadron, VP-6 out of Barber's Point Hawaii, that was flying the P-3.

TAPE STOPS MID SENTENCE AND CONTINUED ON NEXT SIDE

I picked the P-3 Orion which was a four engine turbo prop. It was primarily an
anti-submarine warfare aircraft but I was assigned to VP-6 in Barber's Point, and when I
looked up how to get to them, I found out they were on deployment already in Naha,










Okinawa. They were flying support missions to Vietnam. So here I was, just received my
wings, being assigned to my first squadron and I'm joining them overseas in what we call
"westpac", or western pacific, in support of Vietnam. Now the P-3 was not flying, there
were no submarines involved in the Vietnam War. We were flying what they call search
and surveillance missions from Cubi Point in the Philippines to Camron Bay Vietnam,
and to Utipow Thailand. This was called Market Time Operations. My first tour over
there was as a navigator at the time. Onboard the P-3, was a twelve man crew. The
responsibility of the mission was called Market Time, it was coastal surveillance around
South Vietnam, the South China Sea and the Gulf of Tonkin. Our job was to search and
find what they called infiltrator trawlers. These were resupply vessels. As you might
know there were North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, already in South Vietnam and of
course they had to have ammunition, supplies, food brought into them. And the way that
was done was by sea. The infiltrator trawlers would depart out of North Vietnam, make
their way around the coast, and at night land at specific points and offload their supplies
for the VC or the North Vietnamese that were already in South Vietnam. So our job was
to find them, locate them, identify that they were infiltrator trawlers and call in attack
aircraft to destroy them as they approached the beach. So that was my first experience
over there. I had three tours in Vietnam, or three tours in support of Vietnam flying
market time operations, I flew 125 combat missions. What we would do, a typical
mission was a twelve hour mission, we would take off out of Cubi Point in the
Philippines fly the Philippine Sea, the South China Sea, the coastal waters up into the
Gulf and then land in Camrahn Bay and spend 24 hours on the ground in Camrahn Bay
debriefing and relaxing then you take off out of there, fly another mission around South
Vietnam land in Utapao Thailand spend 24 hours there then back out and do the same
thing in reverse. And that was Market Time operations. The deployments for a VP
squadron were like 6 months long and I joined them just as they were beginning a
deployment so I ended up having three six month tours of flying those kind of operations.
My first tour was as a navigator and my second and third tours were as a plane
commander then as a mission commander. So I progressed, initially you start off as a
navigator and learn the missions learn the aircraft and you progress upward from there.
So again, I had three tours in support of Vietnam, 125 missions and that was over a three
year span because it was six months over, six months back. In the meantime my family
was living in Barber's Point Hawaii so that was from basically 1969 at the very end of the
year and I left the squadron in 1973, so it was three years of Vietnam. You asked if they
were volunteered. It wasn't what you've heard where people can literally volunteer
because my assignment was actually to the patrol squadron and the squadron was
assigned to these market time operations. So no I really didn't have a choice of going or
not going. So it doesn't come under the classification of volunteering.

JTK: Obviously, as a U.S. soldier you had an obligation to take part in the war
effort. Placing the duties prescribed to you by the U.S. Government, how did you
feel about U.S. involvement in Vietnam?

DAM: I have to go all the way back to the Naval Academy, the time while I was at the
Naval Academy. Again I was there between '63 and '67. When I entered the Naval










Academy it was again a great deal of fanfare and patriotism, you know the headlines in
my little small town newspaper of David Materna goes off to the Naval Academy. All the
Knights of Columbus and the VFW celebrating; they're all throwing parties for you and it
was a great deal of fanfare. This was in the spring of 1963. While I was at the Naval
Academy things changed, of course. Kennedy was assassinated, Lyndon Johnson became
president and he started sending actual troops into Vietnam and the whole anti-war
movement started to become part of the society while I was at the Naval Academy. So
much so in fact that in my Junior and Senior years we weren't even permitted to go home
in uniform. Again, in my first two years, we would go home in uniform and of course I
was just young, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old, but you'd go home in uniform
and it would be a great big deal. You'd go into a bar with your father and everybody in
there would be slapping you on the back and buying you drinks and it was a very proud
thing to do. But then the sentiment started turning. By my junior and senior year at the
academy, we were not permitted to wear our uniforms because of the way the public was
reacting to Vietnam and the military in general. What started it was many of the guys
would go home in uniform and they'd run into complete strangers in a train station or an
airport and be called a "warmonger" or "babykiller" or some title like that and people
would pick fights with them. So as a way of not initiating any trouble, the military at that
time decided we shouldn't wear our uniforms coming to and from the academy. So, yes
Vietnam became a very big thing. Also in my junior and senior year at the academy we
started hearing at lunch various alumni names being announced as killed in action,
missing in action, people that you had known a year or two earlier being captured, being a
prisoner of war, being shot down. So it really brought it home and became a real thing.
Obviously, especially during the academy, during your day-to-day activities and
responsibilities you were very very pro-military and supportive of whatever the
government asked you to do. Those were our orders. It was the official policy that we
were going to be in Vietnam, and we felt it was our job to go. To be as good as we could
be and get it over with and clean it up and come on home. That was the way we looked at
it. And that's the feeling, that's what we were trained to do and that was our occupation,
our professional occupation. So when you went home on Christmas break or Christmas
leave or summer (you get a whole 30 days off every year) and find that the people you
went to highschool with maybe had taken a different route in life. My two best friends
went to Kent State University. They were now approaching things a little bit differently,
so we would get into some very serious discussions. Now the good news was, because
we had a closepersonal relationship, it never became violent. It never became illogical or
out of control, it was just serious serious discussion all the time. But, again, the
discussion was at the intellectual level and if you disagreed you ended up shaking hands,
having another beer and "see you tomorrow." There was nothing, it didn't become a
violent or flagrant type situation it was just intellectual discussion. And as always I was
fully supportive of my role, my government's role, and the role of the Navy; whatever we
were being asked to do in Vietnam. And they would ask the question every now and
then, "Well don't you question whether or not you should be there?" and I said, "well
intellectually I do but emotionally I can't afford to question or to doubt why I'm there"
especially when I'm flying an aircraft 200 feet off the ground and being shot at, taking
ground fire. I've got a crew of 12 and 12 families behind those people at home. I have to










be as good as I can get as far as completing the mission successfully, and not hesitating
when I'm supposed to do this or that. I can't be sitting up there saying "should I or
shouldn't I". So it was a part of training and discipline that you were reacting to the
situation that you were facing. Frankly, you had to be able to control whether or not your
emotions or your feelings about the situation crept into your mission.

JTK: You made the statement that intellectually you could question the U.S.
involvement in Vietnam but emotionally you couldn't afford to, if you could clarify
that a bit please.

DAM: From our studies in military history at the Naval Academy, we were taught
strategy going back to B.C. Every military battle, you analyzed why it existed, why it
happened, what should have been done, what should have been different, why so and so
won this one, why one army or country prevailed over another. So you had this very deep
sense of military history and political actions that you learned over the four years at the
academy. When you were home, or in a civilian world, I felt I was very capable of
intellectually discussing the pros and cons of U.S. government policies of U.S.
involvement in Vietnam. But I guess logically, so that you're not questioning your own
dedication, you would never take it to the total extreme of was it right or wrong. You
would just discuss it as to the "whys" and "wherefores" versus the right and wrong of it.
Emotionally, I meant that I couldn't afford to emotionally question what I was being
asked to do. As I explained, because of the missions or the timing or the reactiveness, the
skills that were required to perform the mission. And you had to separate the intellectual
from the emotional. To me intellectual discussion was very deep, what the motivations
were, the reasons behind various actions. But the emotional side was simply that it was a
reaction that I would call upon and the way I felt, and still feel today, that when you
become emotional you don't always react logically. Therefore, you had to draw a line of
that point. So it would be the same as in business today questioning whether or not we
should do something strategically and tactically and then maybe that's the..the strategy
behind it is intellectual. The emotion and the actual act are on the tactical side. So on the
tactical side you would not question what you were doing, but on the strategic side you
might. No matter what, if your mission was to do A, B and C as a professional military
officer; then as a professional naval officer, I felt I was responsible for doing A, B and C
the very best way I could. And I wouldn't let my emotions become involved in that
decision. So that's the differentiation there between the two.

JTK: I am almost certain that you have already clarified this, but I have to ask you
to say it. Are you a Cold Warrior? If so, is that stance derived from your time
spent in a strict military academy?

DAM: I have to say that this is actually a trained skill. To remove the emotion from a
situation. The way it was taught, and engrained into us at the Naval Academy, they
would say "assume that your best friend, or your brother, is on the bridge of a ship with
you in a wartime situation. He has been shot, you're side-by-side on the bridge of a ship,
he's been shot, wounded, killed, laying at your feet and you are now responsible for the










remaining, on a destroyer say 435, lives on board." And they would put you in situations
where can you prevail over the emotion involved of the moment, will your training
prevail, will it remain part of you or will you be distracted by emotion? So there are
many things that happened to me while I was at the Naval Academy that literally trains
you in the discipline of removing the emotion from the situation. So in that respect any
normal civilized person would say that is the cold warrior aspect. In other words if my
cousin, if my brother, if my best friend is wounded, laying beside me bleeding am I going
to be distracted by the emotion of that situation or am I going to continue with what I am
being asked to do as far as my duties. And I think that is the difference or what you used
the term "cold warrior". It is not a loss of sensitivity. I truly believe it's a trained
response that allows you to block the emotion of the minute and to focus on the task at
hand. So, yes, in the truest sense of the word "cold" would come into play because
you're not allowing emotion to come into it.

JTK: Just to make sure we're on the same page, I'm using "Cold-Warrior" as an
advocate of the Cold War.

DAM: OH!! Totally, totally different. O.K. wow, I'm sorry (Laughter)

JTK: In that do you support everything that the government took part in
throughout that era. Such as Korea, the conflict in Vietnam and that sort of thing.
That's what I meant by "Cold-Warrior".

DAM: Oh well I took that the wrong way. The Cold War, so to speak, was a very very
very big factor in our becoming involved in Vietnam. It was the history and the evolution
of the Cold War that led most of the politicians of the time to believe they were on the
right track. That if they were to allow Communists powers to take over a government
like South Vietnam, essentially a small spineless type society. I mean that there were
statements that, similar to the Philippines, to South Vietnam could be conquered by any
nation that happened to sail by at the time. That they developed a theory that just as the
countries of Eastern Europe had fallen one by one that this could now start the same
domino effect of Southeast Asia. Now this gets very deep into the role of the United
States in world politics. I mean, were we put on this earth to mind the, or to be the
protector of, all the smaller nations of the world and to protect them from communist
aggression? There were many, obviously, that say that..I think it should be somewhere in
between, our role should have been somewhere in between. We make our way of life a
democratic way of life known to other individuals. But I also believe it wasn't our place
to force that role onto other countries. Inspite of that, believing that the Cold War was a
factor of our involvement in Vietnam, and that it was a progression of the Cold War
theory, I felt that it was my responsibility and the responsibility of the military forces to
carry through on whatever the policy was at the time. That, again, was my profession,
that's what I was signed up to do, that's what I swore I would uphold the decisions of the
United States government. So from a personal integrity point of view, from a personal
gratification point of view of performing what you said you were going to do, if that's
what they ordered me to do then yes I was going to fulfill the policies of the U.S.










government. Now, if their policies were contrary to what other people believed in, I
always thought that they should put their opinions forward through voting, through
democracy. And this is where I oppose the actual anti-war protests of the time because it
was, I'll use the term a "military action" on their behalf; it was an active protest; it was an
outward demonstration; they used force. Rather than voting for the politicians that would
carry their ideas forward or support their viewpoints, they thought, and at times it got
worse and worse as the anti-war movement grew, that they should become proactive and
reactionary and literally take a war like movement against the U.S. government. So that's
the way I looked at it at that time.

JTK: What is your take on the anti-war, anti-government counter culture of the
Vietnam era? Can they be perceived as irresponsible and/or possible Communist
sympathizers? And how much did this counter culture contribute to the ultimate
failure of the war effort?

DAM: The anti-war, anti-government counter culture of the Vietnam era was, in my
opinion, it was (long pause) like a cancer that started from a very idealistic position, a
very parochial idea of anti-government. It was a, you've got to remember what was going
on at the time, we had the race riots going on, we had a very liberal approach of how to
spend government funds whether it should be...I mean it could even go back to the old
"guns versus butter" discussions of World War II. It's a subject that I don't think will
ever be adequately addressed, or could ever be satisfactory, there's no satisfactory answer
to the total population. But, again, it was what I called it a cancer, the anti-war
anti-government, from the point of view that it probably started with a very, not probably
it did start with a very intellectually founded question of should we or shouldn't we. But
I firmly believe from my side of the fence that there were many people just jumping on
the band wagon, many students jumping on the band wagon because (A) they wanted to
be idealistic or (B) to be very honest they didn't have anything else to do. I asked a
couple of people who were involved in the protest marches at the time, recently in
preparing for this (interview), people that I know participated, and I said tell me really
why did you go to this or that anti-war protest march. Was it because you totally
believed? If the march was held at three a.m. in the morning in the rain or the freezing
snow would you have gone or was it as much peer pressure or something to do as a social
event as anything else? And many of the people admitted to me that it was 50/50.
Obviously they believed intellectually that in an idealistic way that the U.S. shouldn't be
involved in Vietnam. But for them to literally go to a protest march, was because "other
people were going." If they were the only ones being asked would you protest yourself,
by yourself, many, I'm sure, would say "no". They wouldn't feel that strong as far as
their convictions go. So I think, frankly, it became as much a social event as it was a
political movement. Was it perceived as irresponsible? Actually not, I think it
fundamentally started as a responsible action but the extreme to which it was carried
became irresponsible. Was there a Communist involvement behind it? That was often
mentioned at the time that these groups of students, whether it was Berkley whether it
was Kent State, where have you, it was thought up but never proven that there might be
Communistic funds or organizations behind it. Did the counter culture contribute to the










ultimate failure of the war effort? Absolutely. If you look at the U.S. reaction to Pearl
Harbor, it was a united front, we will do anything to defeat the Japanese because they
attacked us. People went on gas rations, they gave up food rations. All the men
volunteered to go into the service, the women would go into the plants to keep the plants
running. This was a 150% effort of the entire U.S. population focused on defeating the
Japanese. This is diametrically opposed to what happened in Vietnam. The anti-war, the
protest marches, every event, every speech that was anti-war was being broadcast on
television which would desensitize people. If their doing it, it's not so bad if I do it.
Therefore the next time somebody asks me to go down to a protest, I'm going to go do it.
It divided the country dramatically, people were picking sides, "hawks" and "doves".
Both at a civilian level and in the political arena, and it was not a united front. Take a
look at how people reacted to September 11th. Everything is "united we stand" "these
colors don't run". We were not a united country during the Vietnam era. This divided
the country. It's difficult enough to win a war or resolve a conflict when you are united,
but to divide the country and half the people were more opposed. Yes it contributes to the
failure. If you don't do something with 100% motivation behind it, you're not going to
do it well. And then you had the politicians they were frankly trying to, those that wanted
to be reelected, they didn't know how to take a stand, which position do I take. If I take
this position, I probably won't be reelected. If I'm sympathetic to the cause then maybe I
will. It was a totally divided country.

JTK: So with that said, what are your thoughts on such incidences as Kent State
and the hard-hat riots, and were these students deserving of such treatment? Such
as the students that were shot and killed at Kent State, whether it be intentional or
not. And the hard-hat riots were brutal, did they deserve this treatment?

DAM: Deserve the treatment? I think any intellectual, any sensitive person would say
no. Did they bring it upon themselves? That's a different question. From a military
point of view I have to say that this was a..let's look at the hard-hat reaction in New York.
This was one of the only active pro-patriotic, pro-government actions that occurred.
Everything else was maybe verbalized but this was an actual action in support. So, the
military, because the hard-hats came across as a pro-government, pro-patriotism
movement, at first loved that support. They finally had someone who were standing up
and saying these guys are Americans. They're here to protect our democracy even though
they're involved in another country. But by doing so they're protecting and supporting
and furthering the cause of the American people. And it was the only active support that
we saw at the time. Did it get carried away? Absolutely. Because what they did went
full circle. They went to the point of, again, I use a term I used before, went "war like"
the movements. They were attacking and injuring people. Just, again, from an idealism,
what side of the fence are you on. So it was an extreme. Yes it was an overreaction. But
it was the only visible action that the military saw of support, of any support, by the
civilian populous at the time. So, we more or less accepted the extreme condition that
came because we liked it, or felt we finally got some portion of the country supporting the
military. Kent State was a different story. That was in 1970 and from my perspective I
thought most of the anti-war marches and protests were starting to actually taper off a










little. Again, as I told you earlier, many of my highschool classmates went to Kent State
so I actually knew people on the campus. But when I heard about Kent State, I was, I
believe, actually in Camrahn Bay, South Vietnam when it happened. The first phone call
I made was to find out if any of my friends were involved or injured or killed in the
incident. But then after it was removed from me personally and I found out that nobody
was involved.....did the individuals deserve it? No. Again, this was an extreme condition
where we had young National Guardsmen, probably as old as the students themselves,
and as inexperienced as the students. I mean the only difference was that they were in
uniform and the students were not. It was an overreaction on both parts. Meaning, rather
than making a point and sticking to it and trying to support their point of view from an
intellectual point of view, they went to the extreme of rioting and throwing things at the
National Guardsmen. Then, as we all know, the National Guardsmen overreacted and
fired into the crowd. Very Unfortunate. I think it was actually a...you almost could
expect it....you wonder why it didn't happen more often than Kent State. It's almost an
expected reaction, or an expected extreme that you could carry almost all the way through
to an "expected conclusion". But no they didn't deserve it. But yet, and I hope you
understand, we had little sympathy for it happening. From the point of view of if they're
willing to attack the National Guardsmen at Kent State, or burn buildings on campus, or
attack military people walking through airports, then maybe some of that should come
back to them. Fight force with force. But did they deserve it? No.

JTK: In the event that the government deployed National Guardsmen, or the like,
to stop non-aggressive protests by means of force, is it a reasonable observation that
that would place the government in a police-state position making them at least
comparable to a Communist government in which all citizens must conform?
Would you see that as sort of a contradiction to what this whole conflict is all about?
The conflict in Vietnam is obviously to stop the spread of Communism, and the
government is stopping non-aggressive protest by means of force, which is in essence
telling them that it's our way or....

DAM: Yes, I understand where the dichotomy exists in your mind. But I think the key to
it is you said non-aggressive protest and many of the protests did become out of control.
And they did destroy public and private property. And they did put innocent bystanders
in jeopardy. So, there's no perfect world. There are human beings on both sides of the
conflict so to speak. And things get out of control. In an idealistic world, the students
would have made their point and somebody would stand up and make a counter proposal,
and you'd have an intellectual discussion. However, this was not in an idealistic world.
Many of the peace marches became riots and they got out of control. To protect public
and private property, the police had to be called in. It was a physical police action. But
there's a the difference between a physical police action and a Communistic government
in which all citizens must conform...I think at the time the government was saying it's
O.K. for you to disagree, but disagree appropriately. And a true Communistic state is not
only telling you how you must act, but how you must think. And I think that's where the
differentiation is. Nobody was telling them you can't talk anti-war. But there saying you
can't get out of control because you believe in anti-war. So I think that's the difference










there. And, yeah, at first blush it could look like it was a police action, similar to what
you saw in East Europe. But, no, they government wasn't trying to get involved in the
intellectual side of it.

JTK: Many protesters believed they had achieved a victory when President
Johnson decided to forego another term in 1968. When Richard Nixon took office
he implemented a secret plan which would soon be known as Vietnamization to
train Vietnamese soldiers to fight and withdrawal American soldiers from Vietnam.
In your reasoned opinion, was this plan a legitimate course of action?

DAM: President Johnson was...you ask a question later "of the three Vietnam era
presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, who was the most capable of ending the
conflict?" Reflecting back on Johnson and why he left the office, or chose not to run in
1968, let me address that last question. I think Johnson was the most capable of ending
the conflict by not becoming involved in it. In other words it was the escalation of the
situation in Vietnam, the troops, the buildup etc. the bombings, the targets under Johnson
that got us deeper and deeper and deeper into the war. So if I was to say who was the
most capable of ending the war, it's Johnson by not taking the action that he did to get us
into it. So, yes I do look at it as Johnson's war. I thought President Nixon was taking an
intellectual approach, again I hate to use that term so often, but an intellectual approach of
the way to resolve our involvement. The Vietnamization movement of training the
Vietnamese to take over, and therefore allowing American troops to withdrawal, in theory
was a very good plan. But you're dealing with the theoretical versus the practical. The
Vietnamese soldiers, I think in reality, didn't care whether they were under a democracy
or a Communistic state, to be realistic. Anybody that provided them food and/or medical
help, they would be willing to support. So I think it would have had to be more than just
training to put them in a position to lead their government. I really think that whoever
provided the three most basic elements of survival would actually control the government
of South Vietnam. But, realistically as they say, I think it was a good plan. Short of
declaring a failure of our involvement, this was meant to be a gentleman's way out, as
opposed to just saying I quit, we couldn't do it, we're out of here. It was supposed to be a
polite withdrawal. A withdrawal with dignity, it was meant to be, and of course it didn't
happen that way. So that was part of it. The bombings of Cambodia and Laos in '70
and'71, again, theoretically and strategically made sense. If you cut the supply lines over
the Ho Chi Minh Trail, cut the supply lines, the back office support so to speak, then you
would be weakening the position of the troops and obviously putting them in a position of
surrender or losing because of that lack of support. Again, strategically it made sense, it
was meant to bring Ho Chi Minh to the Paris peace table. I don't think it was done just
for destruction sake. I very fundamentally believe that Nixon and the cabinet, the
government in place at the time, firmly believed that it was very similar to Hiroshima.
That they were trying to, through a demonstration of power and an actual impact on
supply lines, bring a people to surrender or to put down their arms. It's very similar to
what happened like in Japan. And I think that was the reasoning behind it although it
didn't really work. It wasn't just done to cause destruction, it was done strategically.
And as I said, I did answer the question of who was most capable of ending the conflict, it










was Johnson because if we weren't there in the first place or if it didn't escalate to the
point that it had, then we would have never found ourselves in that position. Johnson
added the most to the war and could have done the most to avoid the Vietnam war.

JTK: Could we have won in Vietnam?

DAM: I think, absolutely. But there would have had to been a total change of the actual
situations that occurred. Number one, I believe we needed a united country behind the
effort. That's probably the most important aspect that we would require to win in
Vietnam. That we would have had politicians that were following or listening to their
military advisors as to the most strategic, the most sound, targets that should have been
attacked. We had the strength. But many times, I know for a fact, people would come
back from reconnaissance missions and say this ammunition site is here, that radar site is
there. We would send out the next mission and we'd be attacking or bombing a totally
different place because politically we were not supposed to go beyond this line or that
line. So, could we had won? Absolutely. By having a united country, a soundly fought
military war, and full support of the entire government behind it, I think it would have
been fairly quick from the point of view that could have been a successful battle. And be
an in and out type of situation. What would have happened? It would have been like a
bucket of sand or water, Probably knowing that the politics of South Vietnam. After we
left we would have pulled our hand out of the water or the sand, and it would have just
filled in behind. It would have probably fallen again, but from a U.S. point of view, yes
we could have won.

JTK: Consider this passage from "On Our Own: America in the Sixties" by
Douglas T. Miller. "From today's perspective it is tempting to judge hawks as
misinformed, devious or downright evil. However, in view of the Cold War ideas,
values and policies characteristics of the time, involvement in Vietnam made sense."
Do you think this is the sentiment of the Vietnam generation at large, or are the
anti-coldwarriors of old more forgiving as time passes?

DAM: Well, I think we talked a little bit about this earlier when I mistakenly answered
the cold warrior...It was easy, given the history of the Cold War to carry that thought over
into Southeast Asia. Try to predict the future. That's what would happen in southeast
Asia. So I think that I agree with the statement. It wasn't just a...we're going to go in and
do anything we damnwell please no matter where we are and nobody's going to stop us.
It wasn't that type of a hawkish type behavior, what they describe as a "warmonger" or a
hawkish type movement. It was believed at that time that it was that we were going to
stop the domino effect in southeast Asia. It was meant to be an intellectual type action
that was focused on the common good, or the common good of the people there. So, I
agree with the statement. No, I don't think that many of the Vietnam generation at large
would agree with it though. I think most would still focus on the anti-war or the protest
side of it. So I don't think they would accept it, I hate to say it, but I don't think they
would accept it as an intellectual discussion, it would be more from an emotional point of
view.











JTK: Was Vietnam really necessary in stopping the spread of Communism? Was
such a small Asian country so significant in the fight to eliminate Communism?
And was such a long and costly war warranted?

DAM: Very good question. Was it necessary in stopping the spread of Communism?
No. I think the action was part of the contributing factor of showing that we were willing
to go to any extreme, including infuriating our own people, to oppose Communism. The
actual small country of Vietnam was insignificant? No, it was just a statement as to how
far we would go to oppose Communism. Was such a long and costly war warranted?
No. As I said, it could have been much quicker if we had been allowed to politically or
domestically support a quick "in and out" type situation. It was more, not the actual
conflict, it was again more of a statement of how far we would go against Communism.
So I think that's the importance of it from that point of view.

JTK: Finally, Mr. Materna, did 58,000 American Soldiers die for nothing?

DAM: Absolutely not. It's very unfortunate. I lost many classmates, many very good
friends, in Vietnam, in support of Vietnam. In the air wars, or as prisoners of war. Did
they die for nothing? Absolutely not. Did those who died in WWII? No. The outcome
of the war does not mean whether you died for nothing or something. It's a statement as
to your support to your government. Again something we touched on earlier, it is because
of the people who die in support of the freedoms that we know today, that allows us to
continue to have the freedoms that we have. I mentioned in our preliminary discussions
that many of those in the military were most upset with the students and the anti-war
protesters because we were in the military defending their right to protest. What I meant
was their rights in general. It's because of the military personnel those who have,
throughout the years....from back to the Revolutionary War through every war or conflict
or even peace time operation. It's that action and that participation at, whatever the
government asks people to do, that allows us to continue the democracy that we have.
So, did they die for nothing? Absolutely not. They died, unfortunately, in support of a
mistaken action, but not a mistaken ideal or idea. They died in service and honor to their
country. And they gave what most anybody would be willing to do. Along the same
vein, I knew every single day it could cost me my life, that didn't slow me down, that
didn't deter me, and if that's what was necessary then that's what I was willing to give.
So they died in service to their country, and it was an honor that they defended the rights
of the American people.

JTK: The men were not honored until the early eighties, is that correct, that the
wall was not erected until the early eighties, the parade for the men did not come
until ten years later. How do you feel about that?

DAM: Very saddened, very saddened from being on that side. That's how serious this
divided country became, how divided it was; how deep it went engrained in the people. It
took that long for people to allow themselves to separate from the emotions of the time










and to finally come back and say... "Oh maybe these guys did something for us, maybe
they did give their lives in support of our rights and our democracy, maybe we should
honor them." Again, it goes back to that bipolar social division that happened during
Vietnam. And it took that long for the waters to come back together. Again, as you see it
now, today everyone is pro-U.S., anti-terrorism. If we had seen that same type of
reaction, if we had that same type of reaction in Vietnam, it would have been totally
different. Yes, the Vietnam veterans who served and gave their lives, should have been
recognized at the time. But again that's how far apart we were driven; that the stake was
driven that deeply at the time and it took that long to come back.

JTK: Are there any questions that I didn't ask that you would like to address,
anything at all that you'd like to add?

DAM: No, I think you did a great job of covering this. We didn't go into a lot of the
detail. I liked going more into the reasoning behind things. I think it was a good
discussion, I enjoyed it, I enjoyed reading up on and remembering everything that had
happened, as I was thinking of coming in tonight. I thank you for asking me to be a part
of this. I feel honored that you were looking for my opinions and I hope that, somehow,
someway, it will help you understand your parents generation of how we got involved in
Vietnam, what we thought at the time and how the country came back together. So I
thank you for allowing me to give my opinion.

JTK: And that concludes our interview.