Interview with Jette Brown March 10 2002

Material Information

Interview with Jette Brown March 10 2002
Brown, Jette ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


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 )


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
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:


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the US protested the war. And I still don't think that it was politically respectable to

protest the war efforts.

Allison Buchholz: Do you think television played a crucial role in the war? If so, how?

Jette Browne: The reporters are going t o try to get the most interesting story that they

can find. There were very few reporters who really became involved in the immediate

engagements. It was going to be selective. They do not have much time. They are going

to select what they think catches people's attention. A lot of the advertising was what got

the people's attention. And they would, of course, try to portray the negative images of

the war, the gory images. I'm sure this was a big factor in the increase of people who

were against the war.

Allison Buchholz: How was the Tet Offensive portrayed? Do you think it was portrayed

accurately to the American public?

Jette Browne: I wasn't here, so I can't tell you immediately how it was portrayed. But

my sense is that it was portrayed as a tragic defeat. The way your questions have been

phrased suggests that that's what the literature says. The fact that it was beaten back was

ignored. The fact that some of the North Vietnamese Army Units were totally destroyed

and were never reconstituted. They exposed themselves to American firepower for the

first time and they were rejected by the South Vietnamese, all of which is a tremendous

validation in a sense of what we were doing. And that was totally ignored, I believe,

especially by the American press. In fact they emphasize the surprise, the fact that they

were able to launch a surprise attack, which I didn't think was all that surprising in itself.


Allison Buchholz: Do you think that the Tet Offensive drew a wedge between the

Americans and the South Vietnamese?

Jette Browne: No, I think quite the opposite. I respect their ability to fight, and they

enjoy the same benefit. It was clear that they didn't like the North Vietnamese. There

was no love loss between the South Vietnamese and the United States. The Vietcong in

most cases were South Vietnamese who had gone over to the cause of communism.

There was some ambivalence in when the US was dealing with the Vietcong from time to

time. But there was no ambivalence with the South Vietnamese when they were dealing

with the North Vietnam. They fought well. They fought in conjunction with our people

very well. One of the big surprises that we saw evidence of were the North Vietnamese

who thought that they would be welcome with open arms by the people of South Vietnam

and exactly the opposite occurred.

Allison Buchholz: In your encounter with the South Vietnamese, did they want US help

and did they appreciate it?

Jette Brown: Absolutely. I think they genuinely did appreciate the United State's military


Allison Buchholz: Do you speak Vietnamese?

Jette Brown: Very little.


Allison Buchholz: Was it a problem that the Vietnamese language training was

inadequate for Navy intelligence personnel?

Jette Brown: I don't agree with the premise of that question. The language training was

the best in the world. Our linguists were good. Our advisors spoke excellent

Vietnamese. In fact, you'll find people from my generation today who were US military

advisors who can still speak Vietnamese. So the people who had direct contact with the

Vietnamese were well trained linguistically and that was not a problem. People like me; I

dealt with mostly Americans. I wasn't worth being trained to speak Vietnamese. But the

people who's job was to advise the Vietnamese military they were all trained to speak

Vietnamese and trained well by Navy Vietnamese. It was the best training in the world.

It was an intense one-year program. In fact, the military language school which is in

Monterey, California. They, in fact, the State Department has a wonderful program. All

of the instructors are native speakers. If you go there to learn German, there are German

natives teaching German. There was pretty intensive training. They had an accent and

they didn't speak like a true native, but they could communicate very well with the

Vietnamese. On the radio or anything else.

Allison Buchholz: How could you tell the difference between the North Vietnamese and

the South Vietnamese fighters?

Jette Brown: Now, the North Vietnamese, they fought as normal military units. They

were pretty easy to figure out. Where it was difficult was prior to the Tet Offensive. The

Vietcong were difficult to determine the guerrillas.


Allison Buchholz: Were you taken prisoner? Did you know anyone who was taken


Jette Brown: No, I was never taken prisoner. The closest I ever came, I was shot down.

It was on May 13 of 1968. I was in a two-man spotter. I was in the mortar position in the

army unit. And I had the intercom. I was saying May Day, and I turned around to ask

the pilot if he heard a noise. I turned to see that it was our piolet and I said, "Oh my

God", that is my pilot that is doing that. And the motor came right up and smacked us.

We fell about forty feet. We fell into a graveyard. Then we figured out that the

graveyard was between the good guys and the bad guys. We weren't a hundred percent

sure that we had our bearings right. Anyway, they held us for a couple of hours, but we

ended up being released the same day. Unfortunately, I did have friends that were taken


Allison Buchholz: How were prisoners treated?

Jette Brown: Absolutely terribly. They were beaten, physically tortured, and not given

adequate nutrients. The conditions were horrible. The mental torture was probably the

worst part of all, they were dehumanized. I am so fortunate to not have experienced the

conditions first hand.

Allison Buchholz: Were you aware of the chemical Agent Orange being used during the



Jette Brown: I think so. Not much of it was used in the coastal area, where I was. It was

used generally to defoliate the jungle areas. The dense areas. It was not really heard of

in the coastal areas.

Allison Buchholz: What was the morale of your squab throughout the Tet Offensive?

Jette Brown: Absolutely wonderful throughout. The morale was great. We were excited.

Especially for action. We were well fed. Also there were no sanitation problems. So the

morale generally was high.

Allison Buchholz: What was the reaction of American citizens upon your return from the


Jette Brown: My return was different than what you commonly hear about. My return

was earlier, it was 1968. Things were different in '68. There was not a lot of exposure

then I don't think. The people that responded negatively were not as prevalent yet. My

homecoming was not unwelcoming.

Allison Buchholz: Did you receive any medals for your service to our country?

Jette Brown: Yes. I don't like to talk about it (Laughs). I feel like I am bragging. But

yes I did win air medals and Army and Navy accommodations.

Allison Buchholz: Would you want to return to Vietnam and see the country today?


Jette Brown: Absolutely. Without a doubt. I would love to, but I don't know that I ever

will. The time, money, motivation for planning. I just don't know that I will get around

to it. But I would love to.

Allison Buchholz: What did America learn from the Tet Offensive to help us in our war

against terrorism?

Jette Brown: That's a very good question. It is a very different situation. But I think that

the military tactics that the US learned during the Vietnam War are all being applied. I

think that the key is the infiltration of better organization into the military.