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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
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.