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Remembering Vietnam My War Story - Bill Nelson
My War Story - Marsh Carter
My War Story - Nancy Sinatra
My War Story - Sen. Chuck Hagel
My War Story - Ron Nessen
- Planned Giving
About Ronald Nessen:
Ron Nessen is currently a journalist in residence at The Brookings Institution. From 1974 to 1976, he served as press secretary to President Gerald Ford. Prior to that position, Nessen completed five tours as an NBC war correspondent in Vietnam and later served as NBC News White House correspondent during the Johnson administration.
Q: When did NBC send you to Vietnam?
A: I was first sent to Vietnam in the summer of 1965, stayed for 13 months, was wounded, returned for four more reporting tours, the last in 1973 to cover the cease-fire.
Q: What types of reports did you do?
A: I did television reports for NBC News, primarily for the “Huntley-Brinkley Report” and the “Today” show. I also filed stories for NBC Radio.
Q: How were you wounded?
A: My camera crew and I were covering a unit of the 101st Airborne north of Saigon. The U.S. troops laid an ambush along a trail. But the Vietcong, hiding in the jungle on the far side of the trail, opened fire on the American troops. A fire-fight ensured. A grenade fragment pierced my chest and lodged in my lung, possibly from an American grenade.
Q: Did you think that South Vietnam would prevail when you left?
A: Based on several experiences of covering a battle with my camera crew and then hearing a very different, more up-beat official version at the nightly U.S. military briefing, I did not believe the South Vietnamese could prevail.
Q: How did you become the press secretary for President Ford?
A: As a correspondent for NBC News, I covered the investigation and resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. When President Nixon appointed Ford as his new vice president, NBC assigned me to cover him. When Nixon resigned and Ford became president, NBC made me its White House correspondent. And when Ford’s first press secretary, Jerry terHorst resigned to protest the pardon of Nixon, Ford asked me to be his new press secretary.
Q: What was it like to be announcing to the world that the war in Vietnam had ended?
A: After having so many horrifying experiences in Vietnam, after losing friends there, almost dying of my wound there, it was an extremely emotional experience. I have a tape of my announcement that the last American troops had been withdrawn. My voice is very high and shaky.
Q: Does the Vietnam War have a continued impact on American electoral politics?
A: People under 40 have no first-hand recollection of the Vietnam War, so they are not as affected by it as our generation was. Nevertheless, the Vietnam War, and the protests against the war, have made all recent presidents much more cautious about involving America militarily in distant lands.
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