(Senate - November 15, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 187 (Wednesday, November 15, 2017)]
[Pages S7258-S7259]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, long before his confirmation as the 10th 
Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero proudly served our 
Nation in a different capacity, as a Navy corpsman in Vietnam. Today, 
with the help of Mr. Ferreiro's unique personal perspective and 
professionally informed guidance, the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery at 
the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, is currently exhibiting 
a new collection of remarkable documents that illustrate some of the 
Vietnam war's biggest controversies.
  Mr. Ferriero and his team are to be thanked for painstakingly 
determining which of the countless relevant texts housed in the 
National Archives best told this often misunderstood story. We can be 
sure, however, that few if any archivists are better suited with 
experience and vision for this task than Mr. Ferriero.
  With this exhibit, Mr. Ferriero and his team honor the memory of 
those who served in Vietnam, while also fulfilling a sacred obligation 
to accurately preserve even our most contentious history so that we may 
strive to avoid repeating past mistakes. Today I would like to pay 
tribute to the Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, and his 
team and ask unanimous consent that a Washington Post article titled, 
``A Veteran's View of Vietnam,'' be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                [From the Washington Post, Nov. 8, 2017]

                      A Veteran's View of Vietnam

                         (By Michael E. Ruane)

       At night, after Navy corpsman David Ferriero finished his 
     clerical duties aboard the hospital ship off Vietnam, he 
     would volunteer to help triage the wounded being helicoptered 
     from the battlefield.
       Some had been shot. Others were missing limbs. Some needed 
     treatment right away. Others were dead when they arrived.
       It was 1970, and Ferriero was a 25-yearold college dropout 
     from Beverly, Mass., who suffered from seasickness and was a 
     dedicated, if at times inexpert, corpsman.
       Today he is the archivist of the United States and the 
     impetus behind the sweeping new exhibit, ``Remembering 
     Vietnam,'' that opens Friday in the Archives' flagship 
     building in the District.
       The free exhibit, which runs through Jan. 6, includes some 
     of the most striking documents relating to the war:

[[Page S7259]]

       A 1944 memo from President Franklin D. Roosevelt stating 
     that Vietnam, formerly ruled by France, should not be 
     returned to the French after World War II.
       ``France has milked it for one hundred years,'' Roosevelt 
     wrote. ``The people of Indo-China deserve something better 
     than that.''
       A 1946 telegram from Vietnamese communist leader Ho Chi 
     Minh to President Harry Truman begging for U.S. support on 
     Vietnamese independence and opposition to the reintroduction 
     of French control. (The CIA withheld it from Truman, Ferriero 
       The last page of President Lyndon B. Johnson's stunning 
     1968 speech announcing that, as a result of the war, he would 
     not run for reelection. ``Accordingly,'' the president 
     concluded, ``I shall not seek--and will not accept--the 
     nomination . . . for another term as your President.''
       He had crossed out ``would'' and replaced it with ``will.''
       The exhibit also includes three Vietnam-era helicopters 
     courtesy of the North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots 
     Association. The aircraft were installed Monday night on the 
     lawn outside the Archives on Constitution Avenue.
       Ferriero, 71, said he wanted the institution to mount a 
     Vietnam exhibit in part because so many of the war's issues 
     remain sensitive and unresolved.
       In a long career that took him to big jobs at major 
     universities and libraries, ``no one--no one--wanted to talk 
     about it,'' he said.
       ``No one asked me any questions,'' he said. ``No one 
     acknowledged it. . . . Never was it the topic of 
       Ferriero, in a recent interview in his office, said he also 
     knew that the Archives had ``incredible material in the 
     records--photographs and all of the military records, the 
     unit records. We have a lot of stuff.''
       ``And for me it was important to tell the story from both 
     sides,'' he said.
       One fascinating document in the exhibit is a Viet Cong 
     propaganda poster that echoes, from the enemy's point of 
     view, the notorious U.S. obsession with numbers and body 
       The poster claims, among other things, that the Viet Cong 
     in 1962 and part of 1963 killed 28,108 South Vietnamese and 
     222 Americans--double the actual figures. ``So that inflated 
     body count was happening on both sides,'' said curator Alice 
     Kamps, who assembled ``Remembering Vietnam.''
       The exhibit includes CIA models of what appear to be an 
     interrogation room and cell in the North Vietnamese prison 
     known as the Hanoi Hilton, which held many American POWs.
       There are transcripts of once secret American helicopter 
     communications as Saigon, the chaotic capital of South 
     Vietnam, was evacuated by the Americans in 1975.
       ``Bring ur personnel up thru th building,'' reads one 
     communication. ``Do not let them (the South Viets) follow too 
     closely. Use mace if necessary but do not fire on them.''
       Although the exhibit covers the war from Ho Chi Minh's 
     appearance at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 to architect 
     Maya Lin's 1981 design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 
     Ferriero's war had a single goal.
       ``We were all under the impression that the threat of 
     communism was the biggest challenge,'' he said. ``We were all 
     playing a part in protecting us against communism.''
       Near the end of Ferriero's enlistment, he was shipped to 
     Vietnam as a corpsman in a psychiatric ward.
       ``There were a lot of what we called at that point 
     'character disorders'--kids who were having trouble with 
     authority,'' he said. ``Then there were other folks who had 
     more serious psychotic kinds of things . . . awaiting 
     transfer back to the States.''
       Eventually, he was transferred to the 700-bed hospital ship 
     USS Sanctuary, only to find the ``psych'' ward had been 
     closed because too many patients had been jumping overboard.
       But Ferriero could type, and he became an administrative 
     clerk. After hours, though, he would help sort and treat the 
     wounded who were transported from the battlefield to a kind 
     of emergency room on the ship.
       The helicopters came and went. Sometimes one would crash 
     into the ocean. ``In my time, no lives were lost,'' he said.
       The ship would spend the day in the harbor at Da Nang, then 
     cruise off the coast at night. Ferriero, who still has his 
     dog tag on his key chain, said the injured included Americans 
     and Vietnamese, soldiers, Marines and civilians. One case 
     stood out. He was trying to start an intravenous line in an 
     injured patient and couldn't find a good vein. Each time he 
     failed, he discarded the needle and got a fresh one.
       ``Kept throwing down these needles,'' he recalled. ``And at 
     one point he just screamed.'' ``I thought, 'Oh, Jesus, I'm 
     losing him,'' he said. ``This is it.''
       ``It turned out that I had thrown one of those needles down 
     on the gurney and he had rolled over on it,'' he said.
       Ferriero was embarrassed. His patient ``wasn't in that 
     great distress,'' he said, ``but I never followed up to see 
     what had happened to him.''
       One day earlier this week, as Ferriero checked the exhibit, 
     he joked that there was one thing missing: a Zippo cigarette 
     lighter like those carried by many an American serving in 
       Later, in his office, he produced the one he kept for many 
     years. It was in pristine condition. ``USS Sanctuary'' was 
     etched in the side, and on the inside of its box was the 
     famous Zippo slogan:
       ``It works or we fix it free.''