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September 3, 2012 Dear Katie, Kaye, Amnada and Students, It was great to hear from you and see

the progress that you have been making on your study of juxtaposition, its meaning, it usefulness and it relevance to the book Dear America. The period that you have been studying was a very significant time in our country as well as yours. I am not intimately familiar with what was experienced in Australia by returning soldiers, but I would be very much surprised if many of their feelings, ideas and emotions were much different than those of the American G.I.s. I have no problem answering all of your questions to the best of my ability and has been 45 years but many of my recollections are indelibly etched in my mind albeit somewhat colored by the passage of those 45 years. As a preface to answering the questions you have posed, I would like to relate a brief story about what will follow in my answers. Back in the 1980s after the publication of the book, there was a group of us that used to meet about once a month for lunch in an Irish Pub on 45th Street in NYC. The group included Bernie Edelman, Al Bourne who was a close friend of mine, about 4 or 5 other guys, one of which was a psychiatrist with the Army in Viet Nam and me. The purpose of gathering was really nothing more than fellowship but inevitably the discussion would turn back to Viet Nam and our individual experiences there. One day I remember one of the guys relating a story about his involvement and I said, as just part of the conversation, I dont remember anything like that. Bernie immediately responded John, Viet Nam was a different place and experience to each one of us. We all have a different view and memory of the place. How profound those words were to me and from that day forth I realized we all, individually, had a different take on the place, people and our time in country. We all went through it and came away with different memories, scars, hopes and expectations. I only relate this as a reminder that these are my recollections and experiences and I can not and will not presume to think that any or all of my friends have the same thoughts as I do. With that said, here is my go at your questions:

What happened to you when you got back from the war John? How did people treat you? How did you fit back into normal life? (What type of work did you do in Manhattan?)

I returned from Viet Nam in late summer of 1967. When I first returned I still had about 6 months on my enlistment and was assigned to a small U.S. Army post in Northern California about 40 miles north of San Francisco. The duty was good for the most part and the off duty time was great with the exception of the tension that existed between the anti-war supporters and off-duty Army personnel. We all loved to go to Frisco, but the Bay Area was the center of Peace, Love and everything anti-military.and we were easily recognizable with our short hair and clean shaved faces. It was not unusual to be called a baby killer, a government lackey, rapist and occasionally, not spit on but having spit directed in your general direction. As a result I generally stayed away from areas that were not frequented by off duty G.I.s. When I was discharged and returned home to the East Coast things were a little better, but there was still an air of resentment and sometimes disappointment which I sensed. Veterans of World War II generally felt we had let the country down because there was no clear and decisive victory in Viet Nam and as a result felt ashamed of us. By then there was growing anti-war movement, and when I returned to college there was a growing animosity toward returning veterans because we represented all that was bad about America, according to our critics. Almost every day we verbally battled groups like the Panthers, the SDS and professors that were not sympathetic to our situation. The way that I fit back into normal life was by having the support of a new wife, a strong, loving and supportive mom and dad a real thick skin and an attitude that said you cant beat me! I have a great deal of pride of having served in Viet Nam and over the years have found that most people I meet that also served there, have similar feelings about our service. When I worked in Manhattan, I was responsible for direct marketing operations for NYNEX Corporation, which was one of the Regional Bell Operating Companies that were formed as a result of the divestiture of AT&T in 1984 and was the predecessor of Verizon.. I feel wonderful that in this country we have moved to understand that the military only executes the policy of our government and is not the developer of the policy. This is seen every day in how our population now respectfully treats our uniformed military forces as they are engaged in military operations in Afghanistan

Do you know what made it so important to Edelman to put this anthology together? (The students had a wow moment when they read about how you know Edelman).

My recollection of our conversations back in the 80s seem to center on Bernie just feeling that it was important to have people understand that the soldiers were just people, who by virtue of circumstances or beliefs found themselves engaged in an event that shaped our nation. He, having also served in Viet Nam, may have experienced some catharsis from the development of the project and the ultimate production of the book and HBO movie. This is only conjecture on my part as I have nothing factual to base this on.

Do you think the text represents the war accurately?

Having said earlier that Viet Nam was different for each individual, I would have to say that the text represents the war accurately. I spent two tours of duty there. After leaving the first time in October 1965 I returned in August of 1967. I remember, or at least think I remember, saying to a buddy on our return in 67, Man, this is a real war now. During my first tour I arrived when there were about 17,000 US military in country, on my return 12 months later there were in excess of 350,000 troops in country. With that kind of escalation there are a myriad of stories and experiences which I believe the text accurately represents. From my perspective, the text provides a view into the complex thoughts and emotions that the soldiers were experiencing. These emotions and thoughts included fear, anxiety, hatred, love, disbelief, confusion, naivety, despair and hope to name a few.

Do you think the text glamorises the war compared to reality?

I dont think the text was intended to or does glamorize the war. I think it lays bare the thoughts, feelings and experiences of those people whose letters home are represented in the book.

Do you think the anthology could have included a bigger variety of perspectives. More voices from the Vietnamese and the people back home in America?

I dont think the book was intended to be a historic view of the war and its impact on the Vietnamese or the Americans back home. It was an attempt to humanize the soldiers that served there and allow the reader to see the writers for who they were, real people that were involved in a terrible and sometimes desperate situation.

How did the war in Vietnam impact on your family?

The war impacted my family at a deep personal level. Both my brother Mike and I and an uncle, my mothers brother, were in country at the same time. Mike was a Marine at Khe Sanh and Con Thien, I was in the south and my uncle was outside of Danang. We all came home within 4 month of each other. My mom aged noticeably while I was away and my dads hair turned from blonde to silver even though he was only 46 or 47 years old. They worried a lot, but never let on in their letters or tape recordings which they sent to keep both Mike and me up to date with what was going on back on Long Island.

Do you have any contact with Vietnamese allies?

No I do not have any contact with any Vietnamese I was in contact with in Viet Nam. I have in fact though, gone to Vietnamese mass at my Catholic Church in Albany, met numerous Vietnamese people who moved to the US after the fall of Saigon. In August of this year I was in NYC for the weekend and struck up a conversation with a young man from Hanoi who is a Vietnamese citizen and works in the city as a computer consultant.

Did you have any support from the American government when you returned?

In retrospect I would say there was no support from the US government on our return other than the disbursement of the GI Bill funds which were earned while in the Army. These were funds that the government provided to pay for college tuition once you were discharged.

How do the experiences of you and your friends compare? Similar or very different? (The students were thinking about the friends you spoke about in your letter, that you have met up with since the war).

Our experiences while in Viet Nam were very similar. We all volunteered for military service, several of us volunteered to serve in Viet Nam and we all wanted to get back to the world. I have two friends, one in New Jersey and one in North Carolina that I am in touch with at least 3-4 times a year. I feel wonderful about this as we have been friends now for 45+ years and it is always good to touch base with one another. Generally when we get together our only conversation about Viet Nam involves the good guys we knew and how goofy they were. It generally brings a laugh to our conversations and a smile to our mouths. The time there helped shape us and the way we approached life since those days overseas. I must say my friends dont fit the popular myth that Viet Nam vets were crazy as loons and fueled by smoking dope. They are all quite successful people having been school teachers, Vice Presidents of good sized companies, NY Times reporters, policemen and business owners. This is not to dismiss or diminish the profound impact, physical and psychological, that the war had on a significant number of individuals. Many folks have paid the price of Agent Orange ( which I believe was quite an issue in Australia ), the trauma of experiencing the things that occurred in Viet Nam, physical wounds and the apparent rejection of soldiers by the country they represented. All were impacted, some to a greater degree than others, but all were impacted. Many of those involved set up personal defense mechanisms to protect themselves from the sights and experiences, while others were unable to do so. It was a strange situation to a kid from Des Moines or Lindenhurst or Chicago to be put into this strange place of alien sounds and smells for the purpose of executing American Policy. I think my friend Al Bourne said it all in the last line of his letter on page 72. It was confusing but. it was what it was.

I hope that this information helps you in the development and completion of your project. Please keep me in the loop as to how you are doing. If there is anything else I can answer for you please do not hesitate to ask. I thought I would attach a couple of pictures taken of me when I was in Viet Nam just to verify that I was once young and not always someone your grandfathers age. Thanks again for listening and I hope to hear from you again. John F. Hagmann

In order, the images of John Hagmann in Vietnam have been taken in 1965, 1966 and 1967.